I have added this as an explanatory addendum to the post 'Walking the Edge' (Meditation skills), but the relevance is general. The question there was: 'How do you walk the razor's edge between these two...?'
I’d just like to add something to this question and response, as it provides a good illustration of the principle behind working with symbols. My response was aimed at showing how the hidden (unconscious) power of the metaphor chosen here conditions the way the situation is seen, and therefore behavioural and psychological reverberations.
Most of us, even the most cerebral individuals, naturally reach for metaphors to help capture and express experience, particularly emotional experience, which in this case was probably accurately captured by a razor’s edge.
Even if the questioner’s intention did not embrace all aspects of this common metaphor, eg. was focused on the fineness or thinness of a razor’s edge, the dangerous and painful implications were undoubtedly representative of a state of mind. And so long as it is seen in terms of ‘walking a razor’s edge’, even unconsciously, (usually unconsciously), the metaphor will drive the painful aspects into the psyche, and the situation will continue.
Change the metaphor, the way of seeing, and the whole psyche-system re-adjusts. It has to, if it's a real seeing, ie. a light-bulb moment, an insight, a ‘gosh-I-never-looked-at-it-that-way’ moment, a K-ching!-connection kind of moment.
Hence my alternative suggestions of winding path etc, geared at undermining the original metaphor. Whether a verbal suggestion is sufficient to embed a significant change is a bigger question. However, it might at least undermine the foundations of belief fixation and shift something!
Working more systematically with the symbols is more likely to produce lasting change. In this example, a person could be led into a very up-close and detailed experiencing of the razor’s edge and its effects, and find that it spontaneously transmuted into a different symbol ( eg, a winding path) which could also be explored and experienced until this new envisioning embeds and replaces the previous automatic association.
And then something is different in that person’s mental and emotional life, in the furniture of their personal mind-space. At the very least, the issue is more conscious now—the unconscious influencing is broken, with repercussions feeding into behaviour and expectations. A small step maybe, but It all helps re-jig the unified system which is a human being.
What, for example, a ‘winding path’ means, how a person personally translates it into meaningful action, will depend on the context. It could suggest or awaken various courses of remedial action: releasing self-will, cultivating trust, opening to new possibilities etc. Indeed, simply recognising one’s own role in creating and maintaining a problematic situation can be enough to promote change.