The Jail


(Please note, the cartoon image above isn’t entirely correct to the client’s description below.)

The person is in severe pain, sitting crouched, and holding the stomach. surrounded by a cage-like structure, as if he has been jailed. With jail bars from all sides. Above, a brick wall. Below, solid flooring.

Left-behind [direction] pool of dark blood.

The cage is within a room. well lit.

Sees two people in front together. Attached to one of them with thin strings of silver.

The person is on his toes. Not sitting, almost kneeling, face touching the ground.

The room is heavily guarded. looks more like a prison. strong brick walls behind.

There is one small window in the forward-right corner, which is way beyond reach. Some light is coming in from there.


If this were a client the first thing I’d be noting to myself is that this a very guarded person. They are both trapped by their own situation and also quite defensive (i.e. they are defended/protected by those that cage them).

This is likely to be a very cagey person.  They are easily judged. Easy to condemn. As they are likely to know this and feel this, they are going to talk carefully, choose their words, disguise the truth. Clients in this type of situation tend to worry, “How will my therapist judge me?”

Of course the natural tendency for therapists to tell their clients the classic lie, “I am not here to judge you” but absolutely no one on the planet ever actually believes this. Judge them and do it harshly and vocally to get it out of the way. It builds trust.

Combined with the fact that this is a dual container metaphor – i.e. a container within a container – it would not be unsurprising if we saw some childish behaviours with this too. At the very least, we should expect to see [or for the client to feel] childish/immature emotions.

In real life, this is likely to be the person who “feels like a prisoner in their own home.”  They have no freedom, are always being watched, have to follow orders, punished.

Trainees of Metaphors of Movement will already be aware that we will be asking the client to “grow up” but it is important to understand what is going to happen when we do this.

To grow up out of the first container (the cage) will compromise the relationships with the other people that are outside of this container but remain within the greater outer container of the room.  This is a dangerous situation as evidenced by the pool of blood that has seemingly been left behind.

Left behind:  discarded, disposed of, of no importance.  Ergo: the bloodshed that has happened is not regarded as particularly important.  This inevitably pertains to some conflict where someone was badly hurt emotionally.  We don’t know who was hurt or how, but the consequences remain in the background as a reminder.

Our prisoner is attached to one of these people, but not to the other. We do not know the consequences of this attachment, or of the nature of the relationship between the other two.

There is a small exit/opening/window behind that lets some light in on the situation, but this is not sufficient to permit escape from the situation.

Growing up out of this situation will not be easy, will almost inevitably result in some kind of conflict, harsh judgement, punishment from the family. Growing up will serve as an escape, and generally, escapees can expect to receive greater punishment if they are caught.

Any coach or therapist working with this client will need to explore the consequences with the client before proceeding to do any change work. Working with the family may also be an excellent option, but the therapist will need to be careful not to become judge and jury as each family member tries to plead their case and win over the judgement to be in their favour.

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1 Response to The Jail

  1. This is also painful situation for this person, it is cramping their style and their ability to stand up for themselves. They are finding it painful to stomach this situation.

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