So I’m driving home, listening to the radio, only half tuning into the monotone drone of the news presenter talking about the inflated property prices in this current “housing price bubble” and I began to contemplate his use of the word “bubble”.

Is it not true that the word “bubble” kind of implies something that is soon to burst, soon to disappear? A thought that was soon confirmed when as the news presenter interviewed an expert whose view was that the property market was soon set to decline.

Now, when working with people therapeutically, I believe that a fruitful goal/direction to have in mind is to help the client loosen their hold on problematic or limiting patterns of behavior.

To perhaps release the tight grip or “fixedness” of some limiting behavior.

To begin to sow a seed that their problem or difficulty is ‘transitory in nature’ presupposes that it will indeed go at some point, it won’t be like that forever! (Certainly not a bad direction to get them moving towards)

So taking a leaf out of the radio presenters use of the word “bubble” I began to think…

“Where could we use the word bubble to begin to hint at the idea that an unwanted behaviour is transitory in nature?”

I mean can you imagine if a client believed that they were caught up in an anxiety bubble, a bubble of ocd, a bubble of depression, a bubble of bad habits etc. Could this be used as a good way of beginning to help someone to buy into the idea that their problem will soon pop/disappear/end?

In other words, imagine someone comes to see you with anxiety related issues and you feedback to them something along the lines of, “and you are telling me that for sometime now it feels as though you have been trapped in a bubble of anxiety… ”.

What is going on is that you are essentially offering them a metaphor for describing their ongoing experience.

If they accept this then surely they are also accepting the transient nature of the “bubble” of their problem as well thus helping them to move into a state where they can accept the possibility of the anxiety/problem ending.

A quick word about metaphors.

Whilst there is a lot of information and therapeutic guidance out there on using metaphors to create change, with much of the information suggesting that you should stay clean with your metaphors (only using metaphors generated by the client) I would argue that as long as the client is able to readily accept the metaphor then it can be of benefit.

And whilst it is certainly more likely that they will accept and go with a metaphor if it came directly from the client… I don’t think it means that we can’t offer alternatives. (Some further thoughts around use of metaphors will follow, I am sure, in further posts)

Using it in practice

Let me give you an example of the way in which you could incorporate this idea within the context of some timeline work.

“And it feels as though you have been in this bubble of anxiety for quite sometime… But float now to a point in the future where you are fine and notice what it was that popped into your mind that allowed a different perspective on that past issue.”

Not only are you offering the idea of it being transient but using the language of “Popped” into your mind (which can be analogue marked – to stand out) you are suggesting how it disappears too and extending the metaphor.

A question to pose

This post is not simply to outline one simple way of sowing seeds that a problem won’t last, but I would also like to ask readers to post ideas and responses about the words they use that may work in this same way.

Whilst many could talk about problems being frozen (and imply they melt over time) or the problem is like a storm (that passes) etc… I wonder if anyone can think of (or perhaps already uses) words that seem as semantically dense in inference as “bubble” (A word that in and of itself infers transience.)

Be great to generate some ideas…