Posts Tagged With: ECG

Day 300: Metaphors of the heart

Dear readers,

I am a psychotherapist, and I learn new things, every time I meet with people.

Here’s something I’ve learned, many times:

Metaphors help people describe and understand what is going on with them.

On Friday, at work, somebody reported that her mood shifts had gotten less extreme.  As many people do, she made a gesture with her hand, to “draw” her experience of varying moods.

Usually, when people do that, they indicate this kind of graph:


This woman, however, used the term “heartbeat strip,” and from her description and gestures, I knew she was describing the an electrocardiogram (abbreviated ECG or EKG):


She said, “Before, my moods were like this …” and she indicated an EKG that was very dramatic. It looked something like this:


Lately, she said, her mood shifts had been more even, and she indicated a “normal” EKG:


(Her description was much shorter than that image, above, from

I found this metaphor amazing , and not just because (1) I had never heard it before and (2) it related to other issues I’ve been thinking about, lately.

I thought it was truly wonderful.

I expressed my appreciation for that metaphor, to the person in my office. And then I added something.

I said, “People often think that any mood shifts are a problem.  However, without ups and downs, people would be  …. flat-lining.” And it was my turn to gesture, like this:


And, we agreed, that would be very bad.

I told this person that I planned to use her metaphor in the future, saying, “I’ll give you credit, if you want.”

She said I didn’t need to, especially since I had added something of my own.  We  agreed we made a good team,  creating that metaphor together.

And then we moved on, to other matters of the heart.

Thanks to all the people who have taught me so much, in so many therapy sessions. And thanks to you, for visiting today.

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