Symbolism for Guidance

Symbolism for Guidance



Interpreting Symbolic Meanings for Personal Guidance

This article on using symbolism for guidance is a starting point-of-reference as you move through the symbolic pages on this website.

Now let's see a show of hands.

How many of us have been at a decision making crossroad in our lives and found ourselves saying something like: "If I only had a sign!"

How many of us have been in desperate need of guidance over a heavy life issue - and pleaded in the midnight hour: "grant me a sign!" to whom or whatever would listen.

Most hands are raised and waving at this point. We've all done it. We've all wanted confirmation at some point. All of us have thought:

  • "Am I on the right path?"
  • "Am I making the right decision?"
  • "What should I do next?"

It's healthy to have these questions. It's natural to want guidance and direction in our lives. We always get the answers. The trouble starts when we don't recognize the answers we so urgently seek.

That's where symbolism enters the stage. Symbolism serves as a trigger so that we can recognize answers to our questions.

Simply put: When we ask questions, we are given answers in form of signs and symbols. Always.

How it works:

From the dawn of time, humanity has used visual/pictorial signs and symbols to capture an expanse of data. Think about it: from cave drawings, to hieroglyphs, to architecture, even the written language - they all originate and incorporate the use of symbols.

This is because symbolism is hard-wired into the human mind. When we see an image it's immediately reduced to a snap-shot. The mind then takes the snap-shot and reduces it to a symbolic impression. This process is called symbolic association.

Symbolic Association:
It's called symbolic association because the mind associates meaning to an image/event thus making it symbolic. Symbolic association is our innate ability to gain a deeper understanding of things and events. This also involves our ability to make intellectual or philosophical connection between these things and events. We practice the art of symbolic association every moment of every day; we just might not be paying attention to our associations.

For example, my friend Jessica came to me in a panic about two job offers she received. Both seemed to be equally beneficial to her growth. Both offered the same pay and benefits. "What do I do?" she asked me.

"What kind of signs or symbols are you getting?" I asked her.

After some thought she admitted (a little sheepishly at first) that she'd been inundated by apples lately. Yes, apples. "They're everywhere!" Jessica said. "I see them on billboards, on the TV; they've been popping up all over the place for me. In fact, the day I was offered both positions a barrel of apples spilled over right in front of me as I was shopping at the market!"

I began asking her what apples represented to her.

I asked her to hold an image of an apple in her mind. I could see her focus until her mind retrieved just the right image. I asked her to continue to focus on this apple and begin to tell me what she was associating (thinking and feeling) with it. Here is what she revealed:

  • I'm hungry
  • It's red and juicy
  • It reminds me of Autumn
  • My grandmother made the best pies from apples like this
  • I miss my grandmother, she had the best wisdom to share
  • One Autumn she told me a story while she was making an apple pie
  • Grandma's story had a moral lesson about honesty

Bingo! Honesty (and we could intuit a direct message to Jessica from her grandmother - but that's another post altogether :-) .

I encouraged Jessica to do a couple things.

  1. Make sure she was being honest with herself and confirm that she really wanted to leave her current employer for a new one.
  2. Check over both job offers again - make sure she has all the honest facts about what each position was offering her.
  3. Do more research and check the background of each company.

The Decision:
Jessica knew she wanted a new position so self-honesty was not the issue. So she decided to do a little more background research on both companies. Both seemed pretty cut and dry except there was one customer complaint registered with the BBB for one company. "Nothing major" she thought to herself "every company has a few picky customers - there are always a few bad apples in the bunch."

Wait a tick - she recognized using the "bad apple in the bunch" cliché and thought twice about that one little BBB complaint. Based on the symbolic association, and that last intuitive hit, Jessica decided to accept the offer from the other company.

Six months later Jessica discovered the company from which she declined the job offer was sued due to misrepresentation and faulty production of one of their products. This lawsuit eventually led to massive cutbacks and employee layoffs - one layoff would have been Jessica's position! They were not being honest!

Do you see how one image of an apple can lead to a symbolic narrative? As soon as Jessica paid some serious attention to the symbolism of the apple, and associated her interpretation of it, she was able to come to the point of the message which allowed her to make her decision.

Interestingly, the position she did accept lead to a huge promotion, and a move to the "Big Apple" (New York). She's loving every minute in her job.

We are all constantly receiving symbolic messages. It is up to us to pay attention and begin to identify the symbols that are around us.

An important note: Identification of symbols is personal. Your ideas about apples (and thus your decision based on the symbolic evidence) will differ from anyone else's.

We can interpret symbols by running through a symbolic free-association exercise like Jessica did. We can also educate ourselves about more traditional or historical meanings of signs and symbols.

With a greater understanding of signs and symbols we free ourselves from feeling helpless and continually asking "if only I had a sign!" As we learn about symbolism and how it affects our lives we begin to gain more control over our situations because we have a special insight to what is happening.

Symbolism gives us a unique perspective lacking in ordinary intellect.

So the next time you need a little more guidance in your life - begin paying attention to all the messages coming to you in the form of signs and symbols. You'll be amazed at the guidance they can provide you!

And of course, come back to whats-your-sign.com for great ideas and insights into symbolic meanings! :)

If you're still hungry for more preliminaries into decoding symbolic meaning, check out my page on Symbols 101

Avia's Book Recommendations




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