My recent blog about listening discussed how one’s cultural stance and geographic location influence thoughts related to meaning “Outside it is snowing, bitter cold, and chilling to the bone.” was the sentence used for example. This sample sentence needs be examined even more closely than it was explored in my previous blog because the full meaning conveyed by the words bone-chilling cold is impossible to express in very day talk.
In my last blog the metaphor, bone-chilling, was examined relative to the weather. In common talk we could say bone-chilling may mean that it is very cold, or very, very cold, or so cold that one need wear thermal underwear beneath one’s sweater, jeans, and parka. However, none of these expressions will do! They do not catch the subtle sense of fear that inheres in the words. The emotional component of “bone-chilling,” is that which one feels when scared. Movies, books, videos of crime scenes, the sight of a high-speed car crash, violent acts against children, all are bone-chilling.
A client who uses the words bone-chilling as in the sentence above, may refer to weather, but even so there is something else beside the cold that needs to be explored. Remember that it is not only what is said that the client wants the counselor to hear, but what is not said: feelings that can’t be expressed other than in special metaphoric talk.
There is some question as to whether the ominous feeling conveyed by the metaphor is conscious or unconscious. The answer is probably both. The conscious mind knows that this snow was extraordinary. What may be hidden in the unconscious is that the bone-chilling cold may relate to death. After all, what is left after the death of the body is, in fact, cold bones. Please note that only what is conscious is the territory of counselors and most other mental health workers. The unconscious is left to trained psychoanalysts. However, effective counselors push the limits of consciousness though extreme listening. Our clients deserve no less.
NOTE: Lee’s blog is written for the website: www.PsyCoun.com. On the home page there is a menu item called Lee’s blog. That blog is interactive allowing for your thoughts and comments. The blog features a different topic each month; one generally related to one or more of our workshops. Check it out. I look forward to reading what you say about the topic of the month.