Working with Metaphors amongst the outdoors!

Written by Jonathan Kattenberg on June 13, 2022
Est. Reading: 6 minutes

Working with Metaphors with clients amongst the outdoors!

Recently I assessed 4 practitioners who had gone through the practitioner training program of Navigate Your Future under We worked around the Watkins Path area.

For those that know the initial section of the Watkins Path below Snowdon, walkers are soon greeted by the prominent mounted plaque on the famous Gladstone rock. 

The Prime Minister many years ago delivered a speech on Justice for Wales, not to mention sung some ‘Cymric hymns’ himself. 

A plaque fitted to the front of the boulder commemorating what was sure to have been a memorable occasion, announcing that indeed William Gladstone had stood upon the rock. 

As we know, Gladstone once stood on and gave his ceremonious speech to the working class about rights and how he would bring change.

A profound moment where many lives were suffering and often hit with devastating curve balls resulting in many years of hardship and suffering from the loss of a loved one working on the slate quarries in Wales. Yet, a wise person would stand strong and proud and provide answers to many questions. A point where some would look up to Gladstone for wise answers and leadership when they lack internal leadership, courage, or the answers they are looking for.

It is alleged an audience of approximately 2000 stood below Prime Minister Gladstone whilst he addressed the audience.

It’s interesting to see how just the above can be used to work in a metaphorical way whilst empowering a client to overcome their mindset challenge.

Let’s break this down.

It is believed the Watkin Path originates from Sir Edward Watkin back in 1892, a Liberal Member of Parliament and railway entrepreneur. Sir Watkin retired and moved to a chalet around Cwm Llan. Sir Watkin was eager to build a path from the quarry to Snowdon’s summit, allowing visitors to reach the famous peak. The Path was the first designated footpath in Britain and officially opened in 1892 by prime minister Gladstone

A prominent figure himself, Sir Watkin provides the opportunity of many metaphors.

Sometimes our minds can be set in old thoughts actions and feelings, ultimately deeply rooted within neural pathways of our mind.

Here we have Sir Watkin creating a new route to achieve a successful summit of Snowdon across what can only be described as a challenging walk for many and leading the way for others to follow! Just like their own path and journey in life where they pursue the light for a way forward through dark challenging times.

A new path can be a new neural pathway to new ways of being or thoughts perceptions and beliefs and can stand the test of time if done properly. Also, with a prominent figure leading the way which can provide courage and inspiration to others to take on new paths in life etc etc.

Although there are many opportunities ascending the initial section as you approach the disused incline on the steep banking to your left, as you approach Cwm Llan waterfalls, the flow of water through the stones offers so many metaphors. 

Deep routed hidden or tried to be forgotten experiences can creep up through the mind at any given point, especially when we are mentally tired as our defences weaken. This has many similarities to PTSD, phobias, unwanted habits and much more, with many trying to find ways to cope. 

The plunge swirl pools collecting water and eventually flowing over to the pool below, trapping stones at the bottom and only allowing the surface water to pass. This can be like working with coping straggles to avoid going deep to remove or change what is lying at the bottom of your mind, still there with your mind reminding you every so often. Sometimes at the most inconvenient time!

If we take the concept of flowing water, just like water flowing through the stones and boulders, it ultimately will find a way through at some point if not addressed properly. If a new route with firm strong foundations and boundaries is created, the water can help wash away aspects of the mind (on the basis the original problem/challenge is reframed).

For some people, working with metaphors around traumatic experiences can help bring inner peace and a way of finding a new route to a more positive way of thinking as long as, the underlying cause is resolved. Otherwise, the metaphors just become coping strategies. This process naturally requires experience to work with PTSD, but if done efficiently, clients can overcome PTSD effectively whilst being in the outdoors with a specialist.

As you go past the final waterfall, you have two options. Turn left and ascend, or you approach a bridge. 

Each option offering multiple metaphors.

Ascend left just past the last waterfall, and you could bring the story of Moses into the walk by telling a story just prior to the turning left. 

Moses as we know would ascend the mountains to reach a wise person for answers. Ok we won’t have any burning bushes or begin walking down with tablets of stone with written commandments in our hands, but a client can often find answers from an imaginary person or figure. Especially as you ascend there is a winding path onto the disused incline track. From here you make your way directly up the slight re-entrant where there are a couple of old structures and cave with tunnels that lead in and out. 

Here a client could look for answers, look how far they have come and how great the pathway down looks with beautiful scenery and history. 

The metaphors at this point become vast. The client is returning with answers, the pathway is downhill which is easier than the ascent and often their minds’ clear of the mist/fog effect allowing them to enjoy how far they have come and much more with clarity in their mind. If it is literally misty, raining with poor visibility, this is even greater given you can be guided to safety, yet being allowed to navigate with a little support. This provides insight to your ability to guide through challenging times even when you may not initially see a way forward through the mist/fog. 

Imagine having found answers and mental resolution to a given situation without being able to see where you are going?

Back to the route. Instead of turning left, another option is to proceed to the bridge just in front.

Providing you with safety to cross over water. For some, this may remind them of the song by Simon and Garfunkel with the infamous song - Bridge over Troubled Water. As we know, the song references a way forward over of challenging times, just like being able to walk over flowing water without the risk of being swept away and overwhelmed with risk and fear etc.

Very soon you approach an old derelict building which the military used to use as target practice on the right-hand side.

As you observe the numerous bullet holes, it’s like a dot to dot of any experience, thought, actions, feelings, perceptions, beliefs, habits and much more. How our programming of our mind connects our past to everything we are in the here and now. With prior work with yourself understanding your mind etc and certain techniques being applied and practiced, this offers a perfect place to bring a visual transformation process to the mind where you can visualise a new route map of the dot to dot of bullet holes and metaphorically relate it to new neural pathways or thoughts actions and feelings etc.

As you proceed ahead reaching Gladstone Rock, this provides a place where an individual if trained would know this rock represents a place where a perceived wise person once stood. Suddenly as you approach, working with a metaphorical process, you are walking towards a place where a wise person in your mind may be waiting to answer any question.

A steady walk and one that is achievable by many means regardless of the weather, this initial section alone offers so much opportunity to work metaphorically with a client around mental performance and mental therapy that goes beyond mental health first. 


Regardless of where you are, understanding how to apply the outdoors and our routes which we have researched clearly offer so many opportunities around mindset therapy and performance amongst the outdoors. 

It’s important to remember that mental wellbeing isn’t about just therapy, it’s also key to mental performance and something I truly enjoy not only empowering private clients with, but also training others to help even more amazing people.

For some the outdoors presents itself as a way of escapism. For others, it offers itself towards mental performance for long lasting results. For me, it’s a respectful and professional playground of immense opportunity to work with and empower a client to a more enjoyable and fulfilling way of life.

If you would like to know more, please don’t hesitate and get in touch.

Warmest wishes


Founder of Walking With My Bear


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