Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Fire as Metaphor

(This blog was originally posted on January 31, 2017)

The element of fire is also an effective metaphor in hypnotherapy. For many of us, fire represents passion in an emotion: love, anger, hate, jealousy. It can also symbolize dedication, enthusiasm, excitement, desire: “There is/I’ve got a fire in my belly.” When an event or interaction triggers an emotional reaction, this response may flare intensely for a little while until enough time has passed to temper that initial interest. Until that happens, it can feel like a battle is going on in our mind and heart to handle the sudden overload of feelings, perceptions and reactions to control our behavior. Sometimes we win that battle. Sometimes we do not.
Like fire, emotions can be and feel very powerful to the point where we feel or literally become overwhelmed by their heat and force. A tiny spark can smolder for hours, days or even years before erupting into a conflagration. Similarly, perception of a thoughtless word or action can dig into the subconscious mind and trigger an inexplicably hostile response (parataxic distortion) that is more a reaction to a previous interaction than the current one. Nonetheless, to stay consistent with the fire metaphor, once this metaphoric match is struck the verbal and emotional explosion can feel overwhelming to all parties involved.
I tap into metaphors for all four elements—water, air, earth and fire—to inspire and encourage my clients’ desire to change an unwanted behavior while simultaneously reinforcing their strategies to control previous automatic responses to behavioral/emotional triggers. Because the element of fire can be so volatile, it is useful to reference the power and stability of earth and the cool, reflective characteristics of water to reframe an emotional reaction or response. Similarly, when a client needs extra motivation to change that unwanted behavior once and for all, the energy of fire is ideal to re-ignite the person’s dedication to achieving that goal.

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy®, please visit
© 2018

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Air as Metaphor

(This blog was originally posted on January 30, 2017)

Photo by Rick Hustead

Air is all around us. It sustains us. It ensures life, for without air (oxygen) we cannot survive. When we breathe, we take more or less of it into our lungs and send the rich oxygen molecules throughout the bloodstream to nourish every cell, tissue, organ and bone of the body. When we are working or playing hard, we may gulp in deeper breaths more often. When we experience extreme levels of stress, we sometimes forget to take in that air or even breathe so quickly in shallow gasps that the oxygen doesn’t get where it needs to be. Where would we be, without air?
Consequently, I incorporate breathing exercises and metaphors about air and filling the lungs in my hypnotherapy consultations. Through teaching my clients how to breathe deeply and completely, I also provide them with insight about the power of this action and air to relax, comfort, reassure and carry them through a stressful moment. When we can breathe normally, naturally and deeply, that is one less thing the physical body needs to worry about during an unexpected crisis. The subconscious mind is already pre-wired for fight or flight. However, breathing—filling the lungs with air and sending the oxygen to the organs that need it in a fight for survival—takes some of the pressure off: the mind knows it has what it needs for instant action. Breathing, especially when we are breathing deeply, is a harbinger of relaxation. Imagine a scene in nature, perhaps in a forest or at the beach. A gentle breeze is blowing, rustling leaves in the trees above or pushing the hair behind or in front of your face. You can see birds in the distance, floating on the air currents that carry them for a few heartbeats before they need to flap their wings again to stay aloft. And then they soar again, motionless, for a few more heartbeats before they fly away.
Air also represents power, such as the strong Santa Ana Winds that blow through the canyons in Southern California in late summer and early fall. Sometimes these winds—this air—is destructive. A particularly strong gust can knock down trees or utility poles; motorists often report feeling buffeted by the force of a hard wind as they drive down highways. In a sailboat on the ocean or a lake, however, a strong breeze is necessary to move you across the water from one shore to another. However, if there isn’t a motor in or on your boat if the wind suddenly stops, you can be stuck in the middle of that lake or ocean for a long time until that breeze kicks up again.
Finally, air is a metaphor for communication. We think of radio transmissions coming across “the air-waves.” We need air (oxygen) in our lungs when we speak or sing to project the sound or intensity of the meaning we are trying to communicate to someone else. The flute, clarinet, saxophone, etc. are all “wind” instruments that use our breath to create the beautiful notes that we hear as the breath is exhaled. During hypnotherapy, I sometimes have clients practice power breathing to forcefully expel negative emotions or distressing/stressful associations with their breath, followed by a slow, deep inhalation to restore a sensation of calm and feeling centered.
Finally, air as a metaphor can alternately represent various emotions and states of being. Expressions such as “I feel light as air!” or “I’m floating on air!” are used to express extreme happiness or exuberance. A sentiment such as, “The air is so thick/heavy in here, I feel like I can’t breathe” suggests some kind of oppression. The experience or image or suggestion of standing in an open field with the wide expanse of sky above your head and rolling hills below your feet often evokes a sensation of freedom and exhilaration. The desire to inhale a deep lungful of air and appreciate this sensation is more often an automatic response than a conscious action. Finally, when we are in a closed room or small space for a long period of time it is easy to become panicked and want to move, but opening a window or door just a crack is often enough to reduce that anxiety.
This is what air can do.

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy®, please visit
© 2018

Monday, January 15, 2018

Earth as Metaphor

(This blog was originally posted on January 25, 2017)

Photo by Rick Hustead

The metaphor of earth—and Earth, the planet we live on—are also useful images in hypnotherapy. 

In addition to providing stability under our feet and the ground we stand on, earth also represents growth, fecundity and prosperity. For example, trees, grass, vegetable crops, etc., grow in and from the earth. When the rich soil is rich, it provides the nutrients they need to create and grow sources of nutrition that humans and other animals need to survive. When the soil is arid, however, such growth is more difficult and may result in starvation or at least, deprivation.

Earth also represents strength and power. Consider the force produced when tectonic plates several miles below our feet move: Just a shift of one or two inches up, down, right or left creates a ripple effect that can be felt around the world as a powerful earthquake. Similarly, when a significant event happens in our own lives we might use this earthquake metaphor to describe how it felt as though “the earth moved” when it occurred. Or, when we are willing or have expended significant effort to achieve a goal or accomplish a particularly daunting task, another popular earth metaphor comes to mind: “It felt like I had to move mountains/draw water from a stone, but I got it done!” 

And then there are those times when we take on more jobs or responsibilities that we are not physically or emotionally equipped to handle at that moment. In our willingness to appear flexible and accommodating, the subconscious mind absorbs more and more pressures and stresses without expressing the discomfort that are actually, silently building up. Suddenly and to even our own surprise, that final small request to do something that we would not even notice or even register as an inconvenience becomes that final pound of pressure that releases a cascade of pent-up emotions in a potentially damaging outburst. After the dust has settled we are left wondering what happened and what could have been different had we addressed the first, second or even third issue before the compound weight of those pressures became so overwhelming. Perhaps that earth-shaking emotional outburst was needed to effect change, anyway.

Finally, there is the metaphor of the planet Earth, the person/place/profession or any other metaphoric center of our world. How often do we put the greatest importance or value on something or someone other than ourselves and our own well-being? Learning to appreciate, love and respect ourselves the way we deserve to be appreciated, loved and respected often produces the greatest (emotional) tectonic shift of all. The ability to incorporate all of these aspects of positive self-regard requires a solid foundation of personal awareness that hypnotherapy can help everyone realize, actualize and reinforce in our daily lives.

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy®, please visit
© 2018