The Verbal Communication of Emotions: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

By Susan R. Fussell | Go to book overview

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Conflict, Coherence, and Change
in Brief Psychotherapy:
A Metaphor Theme Analysis

Lynne Angus

Yifaht Korman

York University


INTRODUCTION

For the past 10 years my research team and I have been exploring the role and functions of metaphoric expression (Angus, 1996; Angus & Rennie, 1988, 1989; Levitt, Korman, & Angus, 2000; Levitt, Korman, Angus, & Hardtke, 1997; Rasmussen & Angus, 1996, 1997) in the context of the psychotherapeutic dialogue. For these studies we have employed an expansive definition of metaphor (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980) in which figurative expressions are viewed as evoking a conceptual and experiential transaction between contexts of meaning. In accord with writers such as Black (1977), Richards (1936), and Turbayne (1970), this transaction between contexts is also viewed as transformative such that a new way of seeing or viewing the world is created.

Despite the specialized functions accorded metaphoric expressions, research evidence emerging from discourse analyses of therapy sessions (Angus, 1996; McMullen, 1989) suggests that the more we talk, the more we talk metaphorically. So prevalent and automatic is the recourse to metaphoric expression in verbal discourse, it quickly becomes invisible in the flow of everyday conversations.

Linguists and philosophers use the terms frozen or cliché metaphors to denote when metaphoric transactions are (mis)heard as literal descriptions by speakers and listeners alike. For example, the metaphor phrase I feel down is strictly speaking figurative in nature but so familiar to us in everyday English that it is instantly understood as referring to the experience of feeling depressed. As native English speakers we no longer need to carry out the imagistic and kinesthetic transposition of feelings of depression into the context of being weighed down in order to know what the speaker means when he or she uses the phrase. It is automatically understood. The term depression itself is metaphorical and implies a feeling of being weighed or pressed down. Numerous other

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