Why do we place so much emphasis on metaphors?
Because, whether intentional or not, they outline the beliefs we have about our internal and external environments.
When you tell someone, "food for thought," you want them to "chew" on the idea you just gave them, not just let it go in one ear and out the other. It means you want to be heard.
When you say, "I'm bottling my emotions up," it indicates you're stifling things that want out. You know that little sss sound when you open a water bottle? That's pressure being released. This metaphor indicates a deep-seated feeling of confinement and pressurization.
When you say, "we're in the same boat," you're saying you feel that you and another person are experiencing the same thing. Draw out this metaphor, and a boat is a confined space surrounded by water, where people can't naturally live. This indicates a sense of isolation: It's just you and the other person who are in the same boat, with not many people around you.
Being able to understand and draw out metaphors to their natural conclusion helps us understand the mindsets and mentalities of others. It lets us know their in-the-moment feelings, their expectations, their understanding of the situations they're navigating.
Not all metaphors are so explicit though. Many, many metaphors are so common that we no longer see them as metaphors, and it is nearly impossible to remove the metaphor from the meaning. For example: A body of text. A groundbreaking idea. Wasted time. Leg of a trip.
If you're feeling happy, you're feeling up. If you're sad, you're down. If something isn't done according to social standards or expectations, it's backwards.
When you talk about a boat, it's a she. As is nature. Neither is actually human.
When you talk about a concrete jungle, you're comparing buildings to trees and humans to animals.
Do you live in a charming small town? Or an artistic city? Those sound like great adjectives for people, no?
Metaphors are everywhere. They tell us the filters we have on when viewing the world around us. They're present in every narrative, every discussion, every debate.
We would not be the communication experts we strive and claim to be if we didn't continually study and inspect the metaphors that saturate our language. ("Saturate our language" is another metaphor, btw.)
What these filters tell us is how our current mentalities are structured, and how we can fine-tune those structures in order to more effectively be heard, hear others, and cultivate community. (See our post on CommUnitCation.)
These metaphors also let us know what our personal mythologies are: The internal stories we live by. They let us know how we see ourselves, how we see others, how we view our communities. They also highlight how we communicate our beliefs to others: Whether we are projecting, protecting, or persuading.
There are myriad ways to look at metaphors, but don't worry, we love looking at them for you so you don't have to overthink the way you're communicating!
Reach out to us to talk about whether Psycholinguistic Mythology consulting is something you'd like to do!
Let's talk (metaphorically),