Geeks Vs Loneliness: changing the metaphor

You might not be able to control what’s happening in life, but you can change the language you use to think about it…

Hello, and a warm welcome to Geeks Vs Loneliness, the spot on the site where we talk about things that may be affecting you, or people around you. Our rules are simple. We don’t pretend that everything we write can help everything, but we do try. Hopefully, something in this series will be of use to you.

This week is a very simple idea, but one we’ve found helpful in testing times. It sprang from this episode of The Adam Buxton Podcast which features journalist Miranda Sawyer talking about her 2015 book Out Of Time. It’s a great listen, humorous and honest, and like the book, explores the modern mid-life crisis, ageing and the sense a lot of us sometimes have that life is slipping away from us.

That’s part of the problem, right there. ‘Life is slipping away’ is an easy-to-repeat phrase that sums up a feeling of not being in control, not being where you want, with who you want, or doing what you want in life.

At difficult times, ‘life is slipping away’ might become a sort of mantra. You could find yourself saying it again and again, filling your head with the mental image it involuntarily creates: you, scrabbling for a rope that’s being lifted out of reach, or running after something but never catching up. That’s what metaphors do: fill our heads with images. This particular metaphor fills our head with stressful images that aren’t likely to make you feel great.

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So, says Miranda Sawyer, change the metaphor.

“One of the things I’ve found quite useful is that I said to somebody ‘Oh, I feel like I’ve reached the top of the hill and the only way is down’, said Sawyer, “and she went ‘That’s just a metaphor, you can change it’.”

“Say you think ‘I am at the top of the hill and it’s all downhill from now’ you could think ‘I’m at the top of the hill and it’s quite a nice view, you can see the past and the future, I can talk to young people, I can talk to old people… that’s pretty nice.

“Or you just change the metaphor completely and just think you’re on a rocket up to the moon, or you’re on a boat… You can just change it completely. That, I found, has really helped.”

Let’s try it.

Is life passing you by? Brilliant! Life passing you by is fantastic! It’s like Netflix, but free. Sit yourself down on a pavement café chair with a nice glass of Fanta, or on that bit of wall near the bus stop, and let life pass you by. Funny dogs! Clouds shaped like Des Lynam! Boy racers who’ve lowered the suspension on their Fiat Cinquecento! Life passing you can be a total joy.

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Or, maybe, life isn’t passing you by; you’ve just given it a teensy bit of time off. You’ve decided to temporarily wave life off to the beach to work on its tan while you both enjoy a nice restorative rest, knowing that it’ll be back soon and the two of you will do all kinds of fun stuff together.

Changing the metaphor isn’t a big or complicated idea—you might even think it’s a silly one—but by taking charge of the images you allow into your head and trying to swap ones that stress you out for ones that make you smile, you could lift a bit of unnecessary weight from your shoulders.

Take care, everyone.