The metaphor: “I feel like my excess weight is a heavy coat I have to wear. It’s like those old plaid, thick woolen waist length coats we used to wear in the winter as kids in the midwest USA. It seems to be protective, but at the same time it’s making it difficult to move. There’s a whole world out there to explore, if i could swim across the ocean, but even if I could get the coat off, there’s something holding me back, like I’m chained to an anchor in the sand.”
If we start with the taxonomy.
Burdens: The coat is a burden and is one he wears well. Burdens are classically “responsibilities”, usually (but not always) responsibilities handed to us as children, and in this instance is verified by the fact that it is a children’s coat.
However, he might have been an adult who was handed this as though he were a child. In which case we can start to posit some ideas around that of identity and maturity and how he is viewed and treated by other people.
As MoM trainees will be aware, burdens can be easily grouped into simple categories:
– heavy objects such as rocks, sack loads, etc. These can be either carried externally (publicly) or internally (privately).
– shields or objects that function as shields. Typically these are carried over the chest.
– garments that are worn, including heavy cloaks and suits of armour.
Each of these have different characteristics and functions but all have in common the detail that they pertain to responsibilities that usually arise sometime in childhood. They are handed to the child by person/s and/or circumstance, rather than voluntarily assumed and taken up by the child. The latter rarely takes the form of a burden and insteads takes on a different construct.
Burdens that are acquired through various means in adulthood often arise in metaphor as anthropomorphications, so we may see it as a elf sat on the shoulder, or the mother in law carried on top of their head and so on.
When a burden is a garment, there is usually a protective function to this, as suggested by the person reporting the metaphor.
In this instance, the burden heavily restricts movement. I’ll leave it to the reader to ponder what the responsibility might be in this case.
In terms of taxonomy, we also have that pesky chain the keeps him attached to the place he cannot move from. There is a detail missing from the metaphor in that we do not know how the chain is attached to the person, so i am not able to comment on that aspect. But we do know that it is attached to an anchor.
This anchor is another burden, one that has been dropped by to which there remains a strong attachment. It’s either become a bit of a drag, or will become a bit of a drag should the person be able to get moving.
There’s an additional details which would require further exploration, and that is the sand in which the anchor is set. An ocean is mentioned, so it would be easy to assume this sand is a beach, but this may not be the case.
The client’s fantasy solution is of course in serious error, and we can begin to get an idea of why he may have been burdened in this manner in the first place. He writes, “There’s a whole world out there to explore, if i could swim across the ocean…”
Note: “…if only…”
This is of course utterly absurd. It would be foolish to try and swim across an ocean, and so this person’s reality strategy is erroneous. There is a sizeable overestimation of his potential ability, should he simply be able to cast of his burdens and free himself from his attachments. His solution to his problems would probably more dangerous than his actual presenting weight problem. If this wasn’t spotted by the practitioner who then goes ahead to change the burdens, this is the man who returns to clinic later reporting that his problems are getting worse. Remember, burdens are about responsibilities!
But not all responsibilities are burdens.
A lack of creativity and imagination is demonstrated here by the use of those two little words, “if only”. We can safely know he can do more, and there are plenty of alternatives open to him, but there is a reason lurking in there somewhere. I’d want to probe a little about that.
This is the Erroneous Law of Opposites in action. The Erroneous Law of Opposites states that the opposite of the problem must be the solution. There’s a good reason why this is the called the ERRONEOUS law.