Metaphors are often a way of helping people to understand new concepts. Typically, I do not like to use metaphors as a way of helping people to understand things; I am more direct and practical and prefer to show people and have them do things in order to learn. However, while thinking one recent morning, I happened upon an excellent metaphor that helps to describe my role, or a professional’s role in the life of the person suffering from anxiety.
The metaphor to be used is that of a trail guide, or even expedition guide if one is more adventurous and daring. So, how does a knowledgeable friend, expert adviser, or seasoned professional act like a trail guide? The following paragraphs will explain just that concept.
In the first place, a trail guide is hired because the adventurer does not know how to get from the beginning to the end; it is known that there are certain people who have been this route and traveled that road and know the way in-between, and that is certainly the same in the case of the trail guide. The anxiety-sufferer will surely be able to make the journey with the help of a knowledgeable trail guide. Another point to keep in mind is that the anxiety sufferer has a certain destination point in mind. Some seek to reach the top of the mountain and conquer all forms of anxiety in their lives, while others are happy with more modest accomplishments. Both goals are fine and a worthy trail guide can help a particular adventure to reach either goal.
The next way that a knowledgeable friend, expert adviser, or professional counselor is like a trail guide is that along the route there will surely be many troubles which make the adventure more difficult. The trail guide does not know in particular which troubles will occur, but he or she has a very good idea of what might happen, and should an unexpected situation arise, the trail guide is prepared and ready to handle it, even if he or she has no prior experience with it. Possibly, the person being led by the guide may want to turn back and go to the beginning; at this point, all the guide can do is coax the adventure to continue to move forward, reminding him or her of his or her goals, which are not too far away. Possibly, the path may have some roadblocks, whereby there seems to be an end which falls way short of the adventure’s goal; at this point, it is the guide’s duty to find a way over, under, around, or through the roadblock, whatever it might be. Possibly, the trail guide him or herself makes a mistake and becomes lost; it is his or her job to help him or herself and the adventurer back onto the correct route, something any competent trail guide can do.
Another manner in which the knowledgeable friend, expert adviser, or professional counselor is like a trail guide is that he or she does not take the steps for the adventure. The adventure must take his or her own steps, knowing that the guide is always available if he or she encounters any difficulties along the way.
The final, and possibly most important way in which the knowledgeable adviser, expert friend, or professional counselor is like a trail guide is that he or she always refrains from telling the adventurer what to do, unless explicitly asked to do so. The trail guide will offer advice or guidance, or even present the adventure with a set of options from which to choose. However, he or she always refrains from telling the adventurer exactly what it is that he or she should do. The trail guide will help the adventure to understand which set of actions will be best for him or her to take, and then the guide will help the adventurer to understand the consequences, good or bad, of those actions, whatever those consequences may be.
By the time the trail guide and the adventurer have reached the end of the expedition, no matter how far up the mountain it ends up going, the adventurer will have accumulated so much knowledge and experience that he or she will be ready to be a trail guide and help other potential adventurers along the perilous route of anxiety! Let all trail guides prepare to help anxiety, social anxiety, and anxiety in all its forms!