Psychology and the Poetics of Growth: Figurative Language in Psychology, Psychotherapy, and Education

Psychology and the Poetics of Growth: Figurative Language in Psychology, Psychotherapy, and Education

Psychology and the Poetics of Growth: Figurative Language in Psychology, Psychotherapy, and Education

Psychology and the Poetics of Growth: Figurative Language in Psychology, Psychotherapy, and Education

Excerpt

There is a peculiar Janus-like quality to the human use of human language: It is both for us and for the people to whom we speak. Were it only for us, we could give language its fullest scope as individual expression; as it is, each of us is also responsible for maintaining the use of language as communication among individuals. The tension between personal and communicative expression is probably nowhere more significantly at issue than in poets practicing their craft or in more ordinary people speaking poetically. Poetic language is the fine line between subjective expression and interpersonal communication.

Despite, or perhaps because of, its crucial position, empirically minded social scientists have tried to keep figurative language at a safe distance, for after all, poetry is poetry and science is science. Part of the problem has to do with the general difficulty social science has in measuring qualitative aspects of human behavior, while another has to do with the preconception that figurative expression is not really all that common. As a matter of fact, this work is meant to show not only that it is possible to measure figurative language quite reliably but that, once measured, such expression is quite frequent even in the most ordinary interactions among people. From data such as these, it is but a short step to try to determine when and where people use figurative language and, when used, what consequences it has for both the speaker and the listener.

The plan of this book is quite a simple one, consisting of three parts. In the first section the idea of figurative language is presented in terms of its linguistic, aesthetic, and philosophical backgrounds. Also included is a description of the techniques used to assess such language as well as some preliminary findings emerging from an analysis of widely differing spoken and written contexts.

The second major section of the book deals with the occurrence and significance of figurative language within the specific context of psychotherapy. The major conclusion of this section is that figurative language represents a very . . .

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