How Can We Use Metaphors to Describe Mental Health? – My Brain’s Not Broken

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Home » Mental Health » How Can We Use Metaphors to Describe Mental Health? – My Brain’s Not Broken

It’s difficult to get through the day while struggling with mental health. Trying to be productive isn’t easy when you’re dealing with negative thoughts, a lack of energy, or any of the many symptoms that make it difficult to be present. Even so, millions of people do their best every day to get through things and one of the best ways to explain this is with metaphors.

Metaphors are used in many areas of life and can be very helpful in describing and understanding people’s mental health. Whether it is a simple story or a more detailed description, a good metaphor can help someone understand the kind of pain and struggle you are going through. If you’ve ever been told that someone “has never heard it like this,” you know what I’m talking about. A mental health metaphor makes it more understandable to those who may not fully understand what is going on – in others or even in themselves.

When I was in my therapy session yesterday, my therapist addressed the “bus metaphor,” a popular metaphor for people participating in acceptance and attachment therapy (also known as ACT). It can be a pretty long metaphor, but the gist is: imagine life is like a bus route and you are the bus driver. They stop on the way, pick up people and drop them off. These passengers reflect your thoughts, which means you can have good passengers and bad passengers. Feel free to acknowledge and even confront these passengers, but at the end of the day you still have to ride the bus.

There’s a lot more that can go into the metaphor (you can read this description to dive a little deeper), but at its core it’s a very accurate description of what it can be like to be in someone’s head. I identified myself very strongly with the metaphor, and the folds and details he mentioned spoke to me too. But I also know that there are many other popular metaphors that people use to talk about mental health. Even if I don’t always feel like they’re describing me, I’ve been through enough to understand where they’re from. And that’s a very good start.

Metaphors can also help people understand their own specific mental health problems. For too long, people have been told to describe how they felt as good, bad, or neutral. There was no patience for a longer explanation, although a longer explanation would always have helped. Mental health is incredibly nuanced, and one word answer might be enough to deal with people on a day-to-day basis, but we should be encouraged to share more. By trying to explain how language makes you feel most days, we can understand a little better our minds and how we work.

Since I love words and language, especially when it comes to mental health, it makes sense that I care about metaphors, but I wanted to give my readers the floor! Are you using any metaphors to talk about mental health? What are some effective / popular metaphors for describing mental health problems that you heard or said? I am always looking forward to more!

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