Metaphor Vs. Guided Imagery

Filed under: Hypnosis Training

Arguably one of the more confusing topics in the field of hypnosis is whether or not metaphor is the same as guided imagery. Then there’s the question of when exactly you are supposed to use them during your session.

You are completely in luck today though, because this post is going to explain what the difference is between metaphor and guided imagery and the best times to deploy these powerful techniques.

We've also explained both of these techniques and the difference between them on our Youtube channel. Check it out down below. Remember to subscribe and to drop us a comment.


Imagine how awesome it would be if you could tell somebody a story and suddenly their life completely changed. Now imagine it is possible because it is!

Milton H. Erickson is the father of modern hypnotherapy and was famous for his ability to create massive shifts in his clients by telling a seemingly simple story. Many of the stories he would tell were ones from his own past, yet they would naturally map across to his client’s current situation.

This was all done without formal hypnosis taking place. Formal in this context meaning the typical process of inducing trance, running specific techniques, and then awakening the subject.

So what is metaphor and when do you use it?

Metaphor is a story that is best told to subjects in either an awakened state or in a light trance. The reason for this is because the content of the story captures the attention of the conscious mind, while the structure of the metaphor is what maps across to the unconscious mind.

Let us put it in a different way that may make more sense.

You probably already know what a pick-pocket is, and if you don’t, it’s simply a person who steals something from other people by taking it out of their pockets without their knowing.

Usually what a pickpocket will do to get the result they want is they’ll distract you so you are looking one way, while taking stuff out of your pockets, usually without your conscious awareness of it happening.

They are able to do this because your conscious mind is only capable of keeping 7(±2) bits of information in it’s awareness at any moment. This is known as Miller’s Law. 

George Miller, a psychologist and professor who’s taught at famous universities like Harvard and Princeton, discovered that you're only able to hold about 7 different things in your conscious awareness at any given moment. 

The plus or minus 2 portion or (±2), means that he also found some people are only capable of keeping as little as 5 things in their conscious awareness while others as much as 9. The average is 7. 

What this means is that by the pick-pocket distracting you by keeping your awareness away from your pockets and on something else, when you least expect it, your wallet, cell phone, or car keys are gone! 

Dangit! 3rd time this week!

So how does this relate to metaphors? Well a metaphor is like a reverse pick-pocket! 

By letting the content of the story keep your subject’s conscious awareness out of the way you can use the structure (and some fine suggestion skills) to embed powerful and life changing information into their unconscious mind.

It’s kind of like distracting them and instead of taking something out of their pockets without their conscious awareness of it you instead give them something nice. All the cool kids are doing this new style of picking pockets!

Guided Imagery

So you’ve learned what exactly metaphor is, now what about guided imagery?

One of the foundational hypnotic principles is the understanding that the unconscious mind is literal and needs exact direction. Another principle is knowing that when someone is in trance, their conscious mind has been moved to the side so you can speak directly with the unconscious mind.

Both of these principles are the reason why using metaphor when your subjects are in a deep trance is less than ideal. Metaphor is meant to distract the conscious mind with content while the literal structure of the metaphor is what the unconscious mind understands and attaches meaning to.

When you have your subject or client in a deep trance, their conscious mind is off on the side, so there is no need to distract it, and if you try to tell their unconscious mind a story with hidden meanings, they’ll just become confused.

Instead, guided imagery allows you to use the content of the story to flesh out the actual experience they are having. Then you can use therapeutic techniques and protocols within the guided imagery to create intentional change.

What do we mean by this?

Take for instance, our free hypnosis audio track, Journey to The Castle, you are taken on a wondrous adventure all by the use of guided imagery from Mike Mandel himself! This audio track is for general use, meaning you can place your intention behind what you would like to work on and you’ll notice 

When you are working with clients or practicing with subjects, you are giving them an experience by describing what they are seeing, hearing, and feeling.

Guided imagery may sound something like,

“Imagine you are walking along a warm sandy beach, feeling a cool breeze and the sun’s rays against your skin, you can hear the sound of the ocean with the harmonious rhythm of wave after wave, noticing a few clouds lazing off in the sky, you notice the sand under your feet now, and with each step you can hear the familiar crunch, crunch, crunch…”

By providing direction and telling your subjects what you want them to see, hear, and feel, you start building an experience that takes them inward. This enhances the depth of hypnosis and allows you to help them therapeutically or improve aspects of their life.

The Perfect Solution Every Time

Every great hypnotherapist knows the most difficult part of any session is making sure you are using the right therapeutic intervention for the right thing.

This means you have to know first, what the clients real problem is, and second, what specifically you are able to do with all of the tools in your therapeutic tool bag. Do you use the Rewind technique? Tell a metaphor? Do you have the right metaphor available? What about an experience with guided imagery? Do you need to set up ideomotor signals?

Phew! That’s quite a lot to handle! It can take years of experience to be confident at helping people make change, not to mention how stressful it is if we don’t feel proficient at it.

With all of that stress and anxiety, the real question now becomes who is there for the theraputic session, your client or you?

Jokes aside, we know exactly what that feels like. It can be really stressful to hear about a client’s problem and want to help them, but having no idea what to do or where to take the session. Other hypnotherapists and coaches have too, so you aren’t alone.

What we’ve found more often than not is that our client’s were the ones who had the answer. Actually, it was always the case. Your client’s unconscious mind has the answer they’ve been looking for. So how do you get to it?

You get to it by accessing the unconscious mind and allowing them (your client) to discover it themselves which could be accomplished through metaphor or guided imagery. Milton H. Erickson knew this and so did Mike Mandel.

One day, Mike asked the question, “If the client’s unconscious mind has the answer, then couldn’t we use metaphor combined with guided imagery to help them imagine the problem and solution with how their unconscious mind sees it?”

He continued, “What if somebody doesn’t want to learn formal hypnosis to do it? Could there be a simpler way?”

After several years of research and development, Mindscaping was born.

Using this simple therapeutic intervention, Mindscaping automatically unlocks a treasure trove of results for your clients. 

This works because Mike Mandel discovered that everyone’s unconscious mind has an internal map for what the problems in a person’s life are. Coincidentally this is also where the solution is.

Mindscaping comfortably extracts and uses that information to provide deep unconscious changework and the best part is you can do a single Mindscape in as little as 20 minutes. It’s that fast.

Ready to learn more?

Click here to discover how easily Mindscaping will give your clients rapid results - today! 

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World Class Video Training and Certification


"I absolutely love the online course. It completely changed my life and consulting career. The information is the best I've ever seen. You guys are incredible at what you do. I love the course so much."

Jason Cyrus