A metaphor for how it works

A metaphor for how psychotherapy works: the cluttered drawer

Life becomes a jumble at times: there are lots of relationships and pressures to be considered, but somehow never enough time to sort them out. So how might therapy help?

Imagine trying to leave the house for an appointment; you’re running late and you need to find the car keys. You know they’re in the drawer because EVERYTHING is kept in there.

When you try to open the drawer it’s messy and cluttered, everything is tangled together and you can’t get it open properly because something is stuck at the back. You scrabble around in there and prick your finger on something sharp – now you’re bleeding a little, but you haven’t got time to find out what did it because you need the car keys!

Finally you put your hand on them. They’re tangled up with the ball of useful string you keep in there. You pull; they’re stuck, so you pull harder. Finally you yank them out – and a lot of other stuff from the drawer flies out as well. You can’t get it all back in and the drawer won’t close properly, but now you’re really late…

How you are feeling:


The cluttered drawer could be a metaphor for what’s going on in your daily life. We all have an emotional “drawer” where we put stuff. Over time it fills up. Often we don’t even know what’s in there. We promise ourselves we’ll sort it out one day, but there are always other more pressing priorities.

Think of therapy as an opportunity to sort through this drawer; tip it out and find out what you’ve been keeping. You may find some valuables you’d completely forgotten about and are delighted come across again. You may find some old guarantees and outdated phone chargers… things you thought you ought to keep but which are now completely useless. There might be the odd gift that never suited you but which you were too polite to throw away…

Raising consciousness empowers us

Imagine having the time and space, with no other demands and agenda, to look through the drawer – with curiosity rather than pressure. Sorting out the drawer becomes a voyage of discovery, with the potential to delight as well as the possibility of uncovering some hidden pain. By looking and discovering, we can make informed decisions and choices about what actually serves us and what we truly want to keep.

Simple isn’t always easy

Although it’s your drawer and you’re the only one who can sort out its content, you don’t have to do this job on your own. Your therapist there to support you while you’re looking: gently questioning and encouraging you to reflect.

Sometimes that involves challenging old beliefs and values, but under conditions that are as safe as possible. It can take a bit ofcourage to embark on this process. But what’s the price of keeping things as they are; of surviving rather than living?