“I’m jumping for joy.” “I’m down in the dumps.” Our ability to see one thing in terms of another is fundamental to our understanding of ourselves and the world. Objects, images, and ideas have symbolic value for their owners and creators when they contain something more than their common or immediate meaning. A symbol is a thing that gives expression to the inexpressible. It is a coded message from the unconscious.

Most of us express ourselves in symbol and metaphor constantly, yet most of the time we are hardly aware of it. We use symbol and metaphor to describe those aspects of our perceptions and problems that are complex, emotionally driven, or unresolved. The metaphors contain coded intelligence from the unconscious about both the problem state and its resolution. The books Trust Me, I’m The Patient and Metaphors in Mind are comprehensive guides to the principles and practices of Clean Language and Therapeutic Metaphor.

If we suppose metaphor to be the coded message and symbol the code in which it is written, Clean Language is a formula for deciphering the code. That in itself is a metaphor: a figure of speech that draws a comparison between two differing domains. Every client metaphor for anxiety, illness, or injury contains a number of symbols that make a contribution to the history and composition of the problem and to the overall meaning and function of the metaphor. Clean Language questioning provides a set of keys for unlocking the subjective sense of the symbolism and making it available to the client for self-healing and change.