Curing social phobia with metaforming
Social Phobia
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Metaphor Therapy: Social Phobia

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The client was a young man with quite an impressive set of social phobias. It seems he has a generalised fear in all social situations. He does not feel comfortable around people and tries to avoid strangers.


He gave several examples of where he felt uncomfortable in public:

In the line at a fast food restaurant, afraid he might forget the order when he reaches the counter.

At work he can't concentrate if someone is walking by in case they might stop and ask a question and he might not know the answer.

He has never been in a romantic relationship because he knows what is going to happen and it is not going to work, so stops himself from getting into it.

In the train station, if one side of the platform has lots of people he will go and sit on the empty side.

He avoids parties and social gathering, because he can not make small talk.

He can not do any form of public speaking, even asking for directions is a problem.


He has been like this for as long as he could remember: 'I thought this was the way I was always going to be'. This page is a transcript of the session to correct his social phobia and lack of confidence with people.


Metaphor Therapy: THE WHITE BALL

THERAPIST/CLIENT -----------COMMENTS---------------
OK, quite comfortable?  
Alright. Take a deep breath and hold it. Inducing a light trance
And just hhhh.... let it out...  
That's good..... Now take another deep breath... and this time let your shoulders shrug down and get loose and limp.  
Let's take another deep breath and hold it.... and just allow all of your body to relax as you breathe out. That's good.  
And another breath.... and reeeeeeeally relax...  
That's good... you are doing very well....  
And that little flickering of your eyes is showing that you are going into trance. You are an excellent subject.... with each breath out you just feel so relaxed so calm.... with each breath out you can just say to yourself.... more calm... more relaxed... This client is easily hypnotised.
And now I going to ask you some questions and you will be able to speak freely... and you will be able to allow your mind to roam wherever you want.... and if any day to day thoughts come through your mind, that's OK, just let them go by.... you can just stack them off to one side to deal with them later.... Permission to express himself freely
So Luke, you've come here today because you feel uncomfortable... in the presence of people in some way....  
You feel that if you are in a restaurant you might forget what you want to order and will feel bad.... you feel that in a relationship you can see far into the future and it's not going to work ... there are times at work when someone walks past and you can't concentrate in case they might ask you a question and you wouldn't know what the answer was.... and you would feel bad.....  
I want you to think of that... about that general feeling.... not about anything specific thing... just about that familiar general old feeling.... that you might be asked something... that you might have to do something.... might have to deal with people... that somehow you won't be able to... that sort of thing.... I want you just to think about the essence of that problem.... I want you to think about it as something that exists and has always existed..... something that is not part of you... but is in you... with you.... something you can think about as a thing on its own.... I would like you to... kind of think... as if you could walk around it.... look at it as some strange thing... as if it was in a glass case in a museum... or you went to the zoo and there were things in cages and you could just look at them.... examine them.... you thing is there... just allow yourself to think about that.... to become familiar with it... feel the size and the length and the position... everything else about it ... that feeling... that thing that you have had for such a long time.... and there will come a moment when you think 'Ah, yes, that's it... that's what it is'....  
And it might come to you as a word or a phrase, or it might come as a memory... real or imagined... or it might come as an image... or it might come as a feeling you have somewhere in your body... that you know is exactly right... 'That's It!'  
So focus on that feeling...  
And when you feel it's just right... just tell me what comes to mind what you are experiencing...  
I can't see it yet. Not sure what is expected of him.....
That's OK.  
Just think of an instance, of an experience when you know you would feel this thing...and just allow it come up and feel it in your body.... because it has a certain pattern to it....  
Just focus on it until you can feel it in your body... it will be somewhere... it will be there...  
Feels really big.... Connect to the feeling
Uhuh... It's really big... That's good...  
What else about that really big?  
Can't get my hands around it and can't get my arms around it... experiences it as a real object
Uhuh... Can't get your arms around it... and what else about it... what else are you experiencing and know about it? ' Developing
It's hard, solid.  
It's hard and solid. What else about it?  
I think it's round.  
It's round....  
... like a ball...  
And round like a ball....  
And it's really big and you can't get your arms around it and it's hard and it's solid and it's round like a ball.... What else is there about that?  
I'm not sure, but it could be white.  
Could be white....  
Uhuh... so it could be white and it's round like a ball and it's hard and solid.... Just regard that thing as something that exists on its own... and try looking at it from different directions... become aware of what it is.... begin to think about possibilities of it... how you might know it better... how it might possibly change... allow your mind to just explore the possibilities about it... Restating and consolidating
It's very heavy as well.  
And what would you like to have happen to that heavy round ball that's round and solid? DESIRED STATE
Crack it open.  
Crack it open.  
And what would happen if you crack it open? Developing the processing
I don't know. There might be something in it.  
Might be something in it...  
And so you would like to crack it open and there might be something in it...  
What would have to happen for it to crack open? Developing
I don't know... it's hard and solid.  I don't know how to crack it.  
It's hard and solid...  
Just think about the properties of balls.... in general... how they are made... what they consist of.... how they can change... how things can be cracked open... Seeking resources
I don't know. None - see if he can alter it physically
Consider the possibilities of change.... Could you imagine the ball a little bit larger?  
It's smooth... it's hard... it's... It just seems impossible to crack. Nope
And if you ran your hand across it, what would it feel like? get more attributes
Like... ah.... like stone... like granite....  
And what colour is it?  
It's white.  
White.... And can you run your hands all over it?  
I'd have to climb on to it. Shows he is fully immersed in the experience now
Uhuh. And just try exploring that...and see if every bit is the same.... and find out what might be on the other side.... Testing for any hint of a weakness in the symbol
It's smooth and seamless... there's no opening.... Nothing... try something else
What's it sitting on? Leave the symbol, try the environment
Flat ... surface. Great... what I hoped for: ball is unstable
And what colour is the surface?  
Black. Surface is not a symbol - no attributes
So there's a large white ball, it's smooth and hard...heavy...and solid... and seamless... and it is resting on a black surface.... Restate and consolidate
Do you think that ball could move? Suggest change mechanism
If something bigger... gave it a nudge. Client accepts the suggestion
So if something bigger gave it a nudge, it could move?  
And so suppose something bigger gave it a nudge, what would happen then? Develop the change process
It would start rolling.  
Start rolling.  
And if it started rolling, what could happen to it?  
I don't know. It might go somewhere.  
Might go somewhere. And where would you like it to go? Keep progressing the change process
Actually not too far as I see it cracked open. Aha! Spontaneous change
Uhuh. And so if it was rolled it might crack open? Developing
If it was rolling fast and it hit something, and it could crack open.  
So if it was rolling fast and it hit something, and it could crack up?  
So just think about that thing rolling fast enough it could crack open, what would happen if it hit something and cracked open?  
There would be a loud bang and lots of pieces flying everywhere. Client adding details
There would be a loud bang and lots of pieces flying everywhere. And that would be pieces like what?  
Jagged pieces of stone.  
Jagged pieces of stone.  
When that thing is hitting something and it cracks... and there are blocks flying everywhere and there are jagged pieces of stone... what else is happening now? Keep progressing the change process
I can't see. Just jagged pieces. New Symbol JAGGED PIECES
Just jagged pieces.  
And those jagged pieces... how are they located... how are they? Developing the symbol
Just scattered everywhere.  
Scattered everywhere. And what happens to jagged pieces that are scattered everywhere?  
They are just lying there, not moving.  
Lying there, not moving. And what would you like to have happen to them? Keep progressing the change process
I'd like to clean it up. Desired state
You'd like to clean it up. And can you clean it up?  
Mmmm. Piece by piece.  
What would you do with it, piece by piece? Trying to get rid of symbol
Throw them away.  
Uhuh. Throw them away where?  
Maybe in the ocean.  
So you would throw then in the ocean. And once jagged pieces are thrown in the ocean, what happens to them then?  
Sink to the bottom.  
And does that mean they are gone forever? Testing if the pieces are gone
No. They stay there forever. No, this symbol is still there
But they will stay there forever? And so those jagged pieces would be... what? all in one place... or ?  
Scattered on the ocean floor.  
Scattered on the ocean floor. And when jagged pieces are scattered all over the ocean floor do you think it would be possible to create the White Ball again? Or is it cracked for ever?  
No, it's cracked for ever. Ball has changed permanently
It's cracked for ever.  
So when White Ball is cracked forever what do you feel about White Ball? Testing for affect
It's destructible. Not what I expected
It's destructible.  
So if something could nudge the white ball across the black surface it could hit something and it would crack and pieces flying everywhere, those jagged pieces could just be thrown into the ocean, scattered. And you have swept them up and they've gone. And I wonder what it means for you to know that White Ball has shattered, cracked? Restate and consolidate
I don't know.  
And so when you think about that white ball now, how does it seem?  
It still seems that it's not split, but I can crack it. WHITE BALL is no longer indestructible, but not destroyed yet.
And you can crack it. And so you know how to crack it.  
And you can crack it.  
And do you choose to crack it?  
I want to crack it.  
Do you want to crack it?  
I want to crack it.  
And after you have cracked it, what will happen then?  
Then I can move on. Desired State
You can move on.  
So what would have to happen for you to want to crack it? Badly worded question....
Push it. Then it would hit something, so it would shatter. .....client responds to the question I should have asked...
Uhuh. And so can you push it so that it hits something and it would shatter?  
I can't move it but something big has to come. Identifies needed resources
Something big has to come. What would that something bigger be like? Suggest looking for resources
Like a giant. Resource found
Like a giant. What would that giant look like?  
I can't see the face, but... big, strong, heavily muscled.  
So this giant, big, strong, heavily muscled.... and you can't see the face perhaps... what else about that big strong heavily muscled giant? Developing the GIANT
I thinks he's so strong, just pick up the ball and throw it. Until it hits something, and cracks.  
So the giant is so strong he could just pick up the ball and throw it until it hits something and cracks.  
Can that giant do that?  
Could you get the giant to do that? Progressing the process
I can ask him.  
So you are asking the giant.... what happens next.  
He does it for me.  
He does it for you.  
So what's happening now?  
He throws the ball... it smashes against some rocks... the ball shatters into pieces... he helps me clean it up...  
What's happening now, there?  
I throw the pieces into the ocean. And.... I feel safe when he is with me. Affect found.
And you feel safe when he is with you. Can you ask the giant if he will always be with you? Trying to see if the GIANT can become a permanent resource
I don't know. Nope
All right.  
But that giant, he helped you... he throws the ball and it hits the rock and it smashes and he helps you clean up and all the jagged pieces are thrown to the bottom of the ocean... and you feel safe if the giant's there... And it's good to feel safe, isn't it? Restate and consolidate
And now that that ball is smashed, can you feel safe? Testing for outcome
Not as much. No - something still needed
Not as much.  
I still see it, I see the ball... and I see the pieces.... Ball is still around. Only symbol still there is JAGGED PIECES: needs to be developed further
And just think about that ball, and those pieces.... And do you think they could be transformed into something useful? Trying to turn JAGGED PIECES into a resource.
No they are just these pieces... you can't do much with them.  
What could a person do with white stone like granite? Suggesting transformation
I suppose they could use them in the back yard or something.  
You could.... could stone be changed in some way to form something useful? Suggesting focusing on the 'stone' attribute.
Well they could be made into art. Bingo! Transformed
Mmmm. They could be made into art.  
And if they were made into that, what could they be used for?  
People could look at it. Admire it. Client accepts the transformation, JAGGED PIECES are now a positive resource.
So people could look at it and admire it, if they changed. And so could all those pieces be changed into art? And become things that people could look at and admire? Restate and consolidate
I think so.  
And if all those pieces are changed into art that other people could admire what happens to the White Ball that's left?  
It's not there any more. TARGET ACHIEVED!
It's not there any more. And that's good.  
And so all those pieces that are changed into art that people can admire and once the White Ball isn't there any more, what happens next? Progressing the process
I can put them out in the yard. new symbol YARD
And what else about that yard? Developing the YARD
I don't know... there's grass... there's a pathway... Wonderful! - a path - good metaphor resource
there's grass and there's a pathway...  
There are many pathways.... Resource is growing - many ways out
Oh, many pathways....  
They crisscross... and... the art would be sitting on patches of grass... so they all can walk around....look at the .... the stone art.... Client is now connecting to rich resources
So there's grass and many pathways that crisscross and there are patches of grass for the artwork and people are walking around... what else about that yard?  
It's sunlit, there's blue skies.... More positive metaphors added
Sunlit and blue skies....  
Are people admiring the art?  
Yes, lots of people..... Allowing people into his space
Lots of people admiring the art... And are you in that yard? Find out how the client is relating to people now
and are you admiring the art? Probing
Yes, but I am more enjoying watching the people admiring the art. Describes how he now relates to people
So you are enjoying watching the people in your yard. And can the people see you? Testing his phobia: are people still watching and judging?
They can but they don't pay much attention. No, he feels comfortable
They don't pay much attention. So are you enjoying having them in your yard. Confirmation
Looking at the art.  
And did you create that art?  
So they are enjoying, admiring the art that you created  
In that yard with the green grass crisscrossing paths.. and you are moving amongst the people and they are not paying much attention to you.... Restating, consolidating, getting ready to test the outcome
And you are enjoying being there amongst them....  
enjoying the fact that they are enjoying it....  
So how does that make you feel? Test the outcome
Proud. Positive outcome
That's right you can be proud of what you have created, can't you? Reinforcing the affect
And all those people admiring the art in the yard and even though they don't know who you are you've got pride in know you are giving them pleasure they are taking pleasure from your art Restating, consolidating, getting ready to test the outcome
And that makes you feel really good.  
And you can move around that yard as much as you want, can't you? Test the limits
You can move amongst those people.... they won't pay any attention at all... they just admire what you have done. Confirm the phobia is gone
They admire that whole yard scene and the blue sky and the sunny weather... and is there anything else about that yard?  
[long silence] Giving time to explore and create
There's grass there's crisscrossing paths... there's art... there's blue sky.... there's people there admiring the art.... you're feeling really proud... you can move anywhere.... amongst those people.... and they don't pay any attention particularly.... Restating and consolidating
It’s just a nice day.... Client has built his perfect place that OK for you? Testing for problems
You are enjoying that, are you?  
And you can feel proud of what you have done for those people? Restating, consolidating, getting ready to test the outcome
That's right.  
And even though they don't know it, you feel proud, you have done a great thing.  
And you know that you can walk anywhere in that yard along those crisscross paths.... and be amongst those people.... and be proud all the time....  
And that's a great thing you have created, isn't it?  
Yeah, I'm very proud I made it.  
And how many people could come in there do you think? Testing for reaction to crowds
And is there any limit to how many people could come in?  
No, I want more and more to come. Client is now welcoming people into his space!
You want more and more to come.  
And when more and more come what happens to the yard? Testing for limits
It stays beautiful for ever Lovely response
It stays beautiful for ever.  
And can you imagine that yard being beautiful for ever and more and more people coming and you feeling proud and walking along all those paths crisscrossing.   
And the art will last for ever, Testing for permanence
And it's a beautiful thing, isn't it?  
That you created and you feel proud about.  
Very proud.  
That's good.  
Now allow your mind to clear while keeping that feeling of pride. And just look around you body and see if there is anything else about that old feeling that needs to be dealt with. Testing for uncleared residual issues
I don't know.  
Do you feel anything else that needs to be dealt with?  
I don’t think so. All cleared
That's good. That means we are done with it. Success.



Modelling A Symbol

This transcript shows how a symbol representing a severe social phobia can be transformed into a resource. The client took the visualisation of the problem, found a way to break it into pieces, and then transformed the result into a positive resource. The pieces could not be discarded because they represented something protective, and he did not want to lose that protection. All behaviour is designed for a positive purpose, even the social phobia. His avoidance behaviour was doing something for him and destroying the White Ball entirely would have lost that protection. The Metaphor Modelling therefore transformed the pieces into a way of seeing them as a positive resource that could be used in social situations.