The Dishwasher Metaphor

  • It amazes me sometimes, how often every day tasks or items in a person’s life can be seen as a metaphor for other things.  As a hypnotherapist, I am of course always on the lookout for a decent metaphor.  The deeper structures of our minds love a good metaphor and it empowers the client to represent their own “stuff” onto the metaphor that is presented them.  Loading the dishwasher this morning, it suddenly occurred to me what a startling metaphor the dishwasher is for therapy in general.

    How can a humble household appliance present such a metaphor you wonder?  Think about it.  Try as they might, the manufacturer never quite gets the configuration of the trays right.  When designing them, they have to consider the thousands of shapes of different bits and bobs of crockery, utensils, pots and pans that may (or may not) be loaded onto them.  Couple that with the fact that no two people will probably load the dishwasher in quite the same way and you have a designer scratching his head and chewing the end of many a pencil, deep in thought as to how they are going to please as many people as possible.

    Take our dishwasher for example.  It’s fairly new, so has most, if not all the modern day ideas put into it.  There are attachments belonging to the dishwasher that will remain in the cupboard for its entire life.  Why?  Because they are for ensuring a baby’s feeding bottle is kept in the right position for cleaning an sterilizing it.  We don’t have (and have no plans for) a baby.  So the attachment will never get used, along with the program for sterilizing the bottles.  But the manufacturer includes it in an effort to please as many consumers as possible.  Our dishwasher has adjustable bits and bobs, even the height of the top tray can be adjusted to allow bigger plates at the bottom.  But, try as I might, over the past few days there has always been not quite enough room for everything and something has to be left out for the next wash.

    Now if I where to get of my lazy backside and do the washing up by hand, everything would get done because I am completing the task on a one-to-one basis.  I know exactly what needs to be done unlike the manufacturer of dishwashers that have to second guess so many criteria to produce the best possible product for everyone.

    Many people will buy self help books to address their particular issues.  I am in the process of writing one myself on the subject of my specialty, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  As with the dishwasher, however, these book have had to be written in a generic way so as to be able to hit the right notes with as many people as possible.  Therefore, using self-help books in this way will never be quite as powerful as retaining the services of a reputable therapist on a one-to-one basis.  A good therapist will be able to adjust their language and the way in which they offer their therapy so as to give the maximum benefit to the client.  They will be able to react to what what the client presents them and adjust accordingly.  Clearly a book cannot do this.  So has to be worded in a way that will attempt to strike the right chord with as many readers as possible.  But, the generic, general nature of this wording comes at a price, the power of the techniques described within the book.

    So this metaphor teaches us, that in order to get the job done properly, on the first go, you might just have to take the plunge and do the washing up yourself.


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