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Dear Biddy,

I am always on the look out (or should I say sound out?) for a good metaphor, one that translates and transcends meaning. In the course of my life, I have been a counsellor / therapist and the power of metaphor to support a new direction or bring depth and understanding to the past was a regular tool. In my improv playing metaphors can be found in the toolkit and become visible on the stage (life is like a roller coaster, bobbing up and down struggling to survive in a life boat on the ocean, flock of birds teamwork …. the list goes on).

Blue Bottle - Portuguese Man O War Jellyfish

Blue Bottle – Portuguese Man O War Jellyfish

I’ve been wondering about your blue bottle as a metaphor – for here in my country a blue bottle is a lethal sea creature – a jellyfish that stings. The sting itself won’t harm you but as soon as you rub the place where you are stung, a poison is released and before you know it paralysis sets in. If you don’t touch it and wash quickly the chances of you not being poisoned are good! Surely this is a metaphor of it’s own! How often do we scratch and rub a place where were a bitten and the situation gets worse and before we know it are poisoned and even death might come to visit in one form or another? This was certainly the case with Othello, destroying his beloved Desdamona, having his insecurities and fears fed by his trusted lieutenant Igao. I saw this play yesterday, Biddy, and I expect some came to see you to find ways for their fears to be fed too, I hope your blue bottle offered an antidote.

The seeds of doubt sewn by Iago, could be sown because Othello’s mind was fertile ready to receive the evil thoughts, slander and anxieties to take hold. What is it in a person that the trust founded on love can be so easily eroded? Power and control corrupt and mutually assured destruction often follows closely behind. We see this in all kinds of relationships – between families this turns into feuds, between nations into war and between friends and lovers hatred and divorce.

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock
The meat it feeds on.”
― William ShakespeareOthello

When we love, we want the best for the other, when we get seduced by our fears and anxieties we rub the sting and there is the terrible potential to release poison, become paralysed and, at its very worst, experience a kind of death.   Being eaten up by our own fears and being susceptible to poisonous barbs does need an antidote; for myself, I prefer inoculation.

I inoculate myself, as best I can, by recognising and celebrating with gratitude the little acts of trust each day – each perhaps like a sip from your blue bottle – keeping me strong. I trust the other drivers will stop at the red light so I can go through on the green; I trust the cook to use fresh ingredients, I am trusted with news to share and not to share; I trust there will be a kindness when I call a friend; I trust I will be paid for work done … and it goes on and on. When these little trusts are betrayed destruction follows – the car is crashed, food poisoning comes, disloyalty reigns, debtors arrive … and it goes on and on. Desdamona maybe pure and white; Cassio loyal and faithful to Othello’s dark, broody soul; but it is our shadow, the cunning and deceitful, Iago, who we must keep at bay.

Iagos are abundant in those politician’s trading on fear, lies, deception, telling tales of what is not true – what innocent child fleeing a war zone is a terrorist, a brigand, an illegal? Iagos are fuelling fears and doubts and too many of us are eager to be seduced. Another Shakespearean metaphor handed to us from the early 1600s standing the test of time.