An of metaphoric narratives, such as mythology and fables,

An
aspect of a charismatic therapist is being able to relate to the patient,
particularly if the therapist has had the same experience as the patient. To
relate to another individual is making a connection to understanding them and
their story. One way a patient and clinician are able to relate is through the
use of metaphors. A simple example of a metaphor is the phrase, “George is a
lion” instead of saying “George is brave” (Witzum et al., 1988). Patients (and clinicians)
use other metaphors to describe their situation or complaints, such as, “I feel
caged in”, “I’m stuck”, “I’m up against the wall”, “People look down on me”,
and more (Witzum et al., 1988).

These
metaphors are important, however, “The really crucial role they play is in the
systems . . . We may call them extended metaphors or analogies” (Witzum et al.,
1988). The language that is used by patients can be utilized by clinicians for things
like guided imagery. This gave birth to the application of metaphoric
narratives, such as mythology and fables, in psychotherapy. These narratives
are typically short, and apply to the patient’s situation (Witzum et al.,
1988). The narrative must have certain functions, including: illustrative
points, proposes solutions to problems, helps patients with self-discovery,
plants ideas and increases motivation, decreases resistance, and reframes and redefines
the problems (Witzum et al., 1998).

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Using
these mythologies and fables for guidance or morality has been around for
centuries. Aesop’s fables speak on morality issues; Christ and the Biblical
prophets taught through parables and allegories; the Talmud writes about
legends; The J?taka tales, Indian origins, depicting incarnations of humans and
animals. Many of these tales, myths, and fables have some form of struggle
where the individual needs to go on a journey to find oneself. The narratives
provide encouragement and hope throughout the challenging times. Further, since
many of the narratives are incredibly relatable, they pierce one’s emotions and
permeate the mind and heart. The individual is left with no choice but to
engage – to become entangled in this capturing story. When these stories are
told, patients come back the following week stating that they were unable to
get the narrative out of their minds, and how their behaviour and/or thoughts have
improved (Witzum et al., 1998).

People
seek therapy when they are lost, in need of guidance, and have hardship while their
coping mechanisms are failing. They are stuck and, either unable to continue
their journey, or too afraid to enter a new, unknown area in their life. This is
where the use of fables is vital in psychotherapy. Patients learn, from the
tales, what those that came before them did successfully, and implement the
same steps. And, in doing so, several things occur: (1) the patient decides to
change her view from a negative and unrealistic perspective, to a positive one;
(2) the patient decides what kind of role to play; and (3) the patient has seen
a glimpse of her happy ending, or successful journey.

Fable #1: The Knight in Rusty
Armor

A
knight, who fought enemies, slayed dragons, and saved princesses, thought of
himself as a good, kind, and loving man. Unfortunately, he was so preoccupied
with his knighthood that he neglected to care for and love his wife and son. He
was so captivated by his armor that he never took it off, until one day his
wife threatened to leave him if he didn’t take off his armor. At this point,
his armor was stuck; he was unable to take it off. Only one man could help:
Merlin the magician. For months, lost in the woods looking for Merlin, the knight
finally found him. When the knight told Merlin he had been lost for months,
Merlin corrected him saying “All your life” (that the knight had been lost). Merlin
asked: “You were not born with that armor. You put it on yourself. Have you ever
asked yourself why?” to which the knight responded: “To prove that I was a good,
kind, and loving knight.” Merlin asked: “If you really were good, kind, and
loving, why did you have to prove it?”

To
get rid of the armor, Merlin sent the knight on the Path of Truth; it was a narrow
and steep journey to the top of the mountain. To get to the top, the knight
needed to get passed three castles. At this, the knight got excited – he may
get to slay dragons and save princesses! But Merlin cut him off, advising him
that he needed to learn to save himself first. The castles are named Silence,
Knowledge, and Will and Daring. Each castle the knight enters, he must learn
why he is in that castle, and then he is free to leave. Merlin said: “There is
a different battle to be fought on the Path of Truth. The fight will be
learning to love yourself.”

The
Castle of Silence was all about self-discovery and self-contemplation for the
knight. After he leaves the castle, he realized that his helmet has fallen
away. The Castle of Knowledge had an inscription on its walls: “Have you
mistaken need for love?” He discovered that he needed the love of his family
because he didn’t love himself… the armor on his arms and legs fell away. The Castle
of Will and Daring had a large dragon in front of it, named the Dragon of Fear
and Doubt. The knight was terrified, but he remembered that self-knowledge
kills fear, because self-knowledge is truth, and “Truth is mightier than the
sword.” With all his courage, the knight walked toward the dragon while the
dragon was spitting fire at the knight. The closer the knight got, the smaller
the dragon became. The smaller the dragon became, the more seeds (doubts of
seeds) he spat at the knight. But the knight did not waiver.

Finally,
to complete the journey, the knight needed to climb over sharp rocks. When he
nearly reached the top, a large rock had an inscription: “Though this universe
I own, I possess not a thing, for I cannot know the unknown if to the known I
cling.” And so the knight let go and fell into the abyss. Throughout the fall,
the knight let go of all his judgments, excuses, and guilt, and accepted his
responsibilities rather than blaming them on others. Then, he found himself
rising upwards. “He’d let go of all that he’d feared and all he had known and
possessed. His willingness to embrace the unknown had set him free. Now the
universe was his to experience and enjoy.” His armor had now fallen off
completely, and he was a new person. The story ends with the words: “The
Beginning” (Fisher, 1990).

The Knight in Rusty Armor’s theme is about how
happiness is finding oneself. But to find ones’ true self, he must go through many
obstacles in life to destroy all barriers that he created in order to feel safe
from himself. The knight has low self-esteem and resents himself. He compensates
this by being “the best knight.” He is literally and metaphorically hiding
behind his armor, which signifies superficiality and artificialness. He is
relying on the image he created for himself – the greatest knight – because he
is too afraid to confront himself and his self-worth. This is seen in many
people today. There may be too much darkness within the individual; he needs a
mask (or armor) to hide behind so that he does not have to face who he is. The fear
the knight faced when he was marching towards the dragon vanished when he
realized he was the one who allowed fear and doubt into his mind. The dragon essentially
represented the knight’s false self that is imprisoned. This especially applies
to anxiety. Anxiety is based on dishonesties that pervade one’s mind, leading to
constant doubt and fear. The knight discovered that the dragon was not actually
real; it was his mind – his doubt and fear – making the dragon real, just as
anxiety does