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Starting Points

We start with a variety of presentations that introduce definitions and applications of metaphor. The conscious understanding of metaphor in real time, and the use of metaphor to direct attention, form questions and expand dialog are emphasized.

Listening, Questioning, Extending

Comparable Strategies in Other Professions

I expect that most other professions which practice "real time" consultative interaction with clients to assist them with difficulties have intrinsic steps involving (1) listening, observing, apprehending; (2) clarifying, integrating, converging, harmonizing; and (3) extending, diverging, exploring, etc.

For psychotherapists perhaps it would be listening for problem; helping client express issue, obstacle or feeling; finding fuller meaning/planning action. Ferrara (1994) identifies three parallel processes in psychotherapy: building rapport, facilitating client self-expression, and fostering insight.

For scientists or researchers it might be problem identification/major intuition; connecting to other work; developing theoretical implications. For students of creative writing it might be finding topic of interest; thinking about it in new ways; creating alternative story lines.

These three aspects can be seen as intrinsic to counseling and psychotherapy and are metaphorically understood; see Mediators Make Use of Masked Metaphor.

Conscious Awareness

Experiential Learning Required


Primacy of Metaphor

In order to show how metaphor can be basic to thinking and how it can operate outside of your awareness so much of the time, I am going to present an explanation here.

Metaphor has not always been considered to be fundamental, but instead a mere matter of words. It has not traditionally been considered as conceptual, but mostly a deviation from proper literal usage. Many believe metaphor to be secondary to literal meaning (Searle, 1979). Others distrust metaphor, such as Churchill (1990) who states, “Metaphor is the figurative use of analogy” and should be avoided when attempting to be clear or evaluate the truth of an argument. From the view of classic philosophical metaphysics metaphor cannot really help us form an objective reality.

But a growing literature in cognitive science demonstrates that metaphor underlies much of our complex thinking, reasoning and language. This is especially true in abstract domains of the sort that figure prominently in the mediation process, such as emotions (often understood metaphorically as forces moving within), personality (a structure defining what moves what), and interpersonal relations (a set of connections through which influence is exerted). Certainly metaphor guides our clients’ psychological interpretations of motivation and behavior, and their predictions about future outcomes.

We understand these indirectly experienced and abstract subjects by likening them to something else that we already do understand. Our grasp of such subjects remains at least partly, and often predominantly, in the metaphorical realm. So, when discussing such questions (which often arise in mediation) as “Why does this person feel this way?”, “What does he need?”, “ How can we cooperate?” or, “Will this work best for the children?”, we are implicitly using metaphor.

This is why it is so important that mediators have a conscious awareness of different kinds of metaphor and, hopefully, the skill to make good use of them. Much of the dispute we see as mediators is due to differing metaphoric interpretations, and resolution of such disputes may depend upon clarifying for clients the metaphors they are implicitly using.

Evidence shows metaphor is often preferred in everyday thought and speech to literal interpretations (Glucksberg, et. al, 1982). Just during the past twenty years a large body of work in linguistics, psychology and education has accumulated (e.g., Ortony, 1993) to show how metaphor generates understanding of the kind illustrated in the examples above. Furthermore, many cognitive scientists now insist that metaphor plays a key role in structuring all human cognition.

What is Metaphor?

"Proverbial" Metaphor & Primary Conceptual Metaphor

Uses of Metaphor


Navigation Notes

Anatomy of Metaphor

The detection of metaphor often starts with noticing figurative use of words and then extrapolating to a metaphor typified by that word use, as done in this example: A divorcing parent in mediation says, “If you’re going to haggle over time with the kids I’ll just give you my bottom line.” The italicized words suggest that negotiating about parenting is metaphorically understood as marketplace bargaining. This is both interesting and useful in itself because it identifies a possible thinking pattern the mediator could join in with or offer an alternative to. More detailed knowledge, however, readies the mediator with conventional and possible novel entailments of this common metaphor, assumptions taken for granted, inferences likely to arise, and alternatives ranged in terms of their shared structure.

The items linked from here describe metaphor in terms of source and target domains, review a range of source domains likely to be found, gain an understanding of entailments, correspondences and metaphor mappings, and see how these generate inferences. Then we will look at the generic metaphor structure that underpins metaphoric understanding of events and causation, examine the effect of omissions of generic elements, metaphor extensions, metaphors in combination, and co-creation of metaphor in dialogue.

Inference Patterns

Entailments and Correspondence Mappings

Novel Metaphor


Co-Creation of Metaphor

Schön (1993) points out that when metaphoric frames are distinctly different, negotiations become incommensurate. This is because the normative expectation of disputants’ metaphors are divergent and the direction of the presumed problem resolution is conceived in entirely different terms. When such frame conflict exists, Moore (1996, pp. 216-217) lists typical ways of dealing with it, such as expanding the agenda, carving out distinct domains under the control of each disputant, and looking for superordinate interests that encompass all.

We want to use metaphor awareness to improve upon the typical tactics mediators might use. Rather than depending upon expanding the agenda we want to be able to acknowledge and explore the contrasting agendas these disputants have already indicated. Rather than having to carve out distinct domains under the control of each disputant (for example, the mother handling socio-emotional dynamics and the father attending to progress towards goals) we want the ability to explore ways that both parents might understand and accept these distinct areas and work in concert. We may choose not to appeal to a superordinate interest (such as welfare of the children or desire to co-parent) that, while encouraging agreement at an abstract level, would not necessarily ground the discussion in details that form the experience of each party. It is the extendibility of metaphors – primarily through their structural properties – that make these options viable for the metaphor-aware mediator. Metaphor scholarship prepares the way for us to do this.

Lakoff and Turner (1989) illustrate in numerous examples how novel metaphoric constructions
are extensions of conventional metaphors and derive from the same theoretical elements. Kövecses (2002) summarizes several different ways that metaphors already operating might be broadened, animated, and altered through elaboration, extension, questioning, combining, and personification. Grady, Oakley, and Coulson (1999) discuss conceptual blends producing elaborations as the mind runs through metaphorically projected behavior, resulting in an emergent structure. Ferrara (1994) illustrates how these processes, along with a serious kind of playfulness engendered when metaphors are introduced into a conversation, can result in negotiated co-creation of ever more interesting layers of metaphoric meaning. So, while it has a durable structure this does not mean that metaphor is static. The structure in no way inhibits the dynamic use of metaphor to evolve new understandings. These, in turn, can enhance negotiating capacity and allow resolutions of conflict to emerge.

The process of extending metaphor can be merged easily into the process of recapping what is heard, making comments and asking questions. The metaphor-aware mediator’s strategy can be to expand and deepen meanings as already partially understood by clients. As meaning is enlarged, ramifications and dimensions added, new associations and connections can be spun out. By weaving a web of correspondences, something of importance in mediation may occur – the expansion of possible client options and alternatives of thought and action.

Related Subjects

Coherence of Metaphor

Typically, people use a variety of metaphors from diverse sources, even when thinking or talking about a single event or activity.
"Mixed" Metaphor Example: As her story gathered momentum she sprinkled in tidbits about the scenery.
Coherent Metaphor Examples: As the pieces of her story came together, she added tidbits about the scenery. As her story gathered momentum scenic tidbits were swept along.
Mixed: Getting to an agreement may require a strong dose of the stick along with the carrot.
Coherent: Moving toward agreement may require some pushing by the stick along with pulling by the carrot.
Mixed: You aren't saddled with payments that you would have to trim in order to make ends meet.
Coherent: You haven't let your payments grow so big that you have to trim them back in order to keep your finances looking good. You aren't saddled with payments that you can't get off your back. You aren't weighted down by so many payments that you can't keep your life going at the normal pace.
Mixed (from New York Times, 12/17/2000, re the European Union) The Nordic countries and Britain tend to steer clear of steps they think could lead to Europe as a superstate, while France and Germany have traditionally favored the closest ties, warming to the notion of a power that would offer a couterweight to America.

We are accustomed to mixed metaphor and the use of diverse fragments and still often manage to find the meaning.

Yet for maximum clarity, transfer of understanding, persuasiveness, ease of remembering, and effective sequencing of thought into action we hypothesize that coherent metaphor is better. The listener or reader may more successfully understand what is said if the metaphors used are familiar, clear, and (so long as the metaphor is apt) continuously used without the gratuitous intermixing of other metaphors (even if these others are also apt). Might we ask, if a metaphor has been introduced, does not the listener ask whether what is spoken of actually corresponds to the metaphor being used? A further hypothesis might be that coherence is greater when underlying metaphors are very conventional, familiar ones. These might include metaphors of bodily movements that include all the elements of a nomal event sequence (see Bodily Movement section), and such widely used metaphors as Journey, Construction, etc.

On the other hand, diverse spaces can deepen and enrich understanding.

Bodily Movement Metaphors

Generic-Level Structure

Uncovering Metaphor

Layers of Organization

Elements Present

The Influence of Missing Elements

For clarification and extension of metaphor, we want to ask questions that help identify and express elements that are not yet explicit.

For example, someone says, "In our family we have always had certain ongoing obligations." I tend to want to ask where these obligations come from, who is influenced by them, is it a strong or weak force? etc. From this I hope to get missing information on Agent, Affected Entity, nature of the Force, etc.

Alternatively, metaphors with missing or unspecified elements are very useful also. They beg the question so that the listener may entertain a variety of alternatives in a process of searching for the missing elements.

Whenever any element is part of the Target Domain, any other elements conventionally related to it could generate or open a Source Domain. Elements may, in general, be related in terms of a taxonomy and/or a partonomy:
In a taxonomy, concepts in memory are related to one another in an abstraction hierarchy. In a partonomy, a concept is related to another concept if it is a part of some other concept. Compare these with other kinds of relational systems, such as topologic or spatial relations. Can conceive of several "families" of relations: Parts and wholes (e.g., the door is part of the house), Constitution (structural part of, subdivision of, component of, constituent of, portion of, e.g., the house is made of wood), Membership (e.g., the house is part of the neighborhood), Containment (furniture is contained in the house), Connection/branching/adjacency (the house is connected to the water lines/reached via the road/next to the school) ... Functional part of... (see Foundations of the Semantic Web: Ontology Engineering.)


Metaphor and Gendlin's "Focusing"

"Focusing", as I understand Gendlin (1996), is the process of retrieving and understanding the deeper -- usually bodily -- experience that underlies certain problems or distress. In order to avoid the dead end discussions Gendlin believes characterize so much of psychotherapy, and pay attention instead to the border zone between conscious and unconscious where new meaning and change can occur, he and his collaborators have spent years developing the focusing process.

(Note some similarity between "focusing" and Schon's (1993) description of "restructuring and coordinating conflicting frames" -- a process of immersion into the concrete experience surrounding a dilemma, have those people actually involved in situation tell their stories relatively free of customary categories that lets one frame be suspended but another not fully formed, to get information-rich descriptions where events are juxtaposed in time, and coming up with new, generative metaphors to desolve frame conflict, express "hidden" meaning, and find more beneficial ways of resolving difficulties. Schon suggests four steps: 1. Info-rich, category-free story telling, 2. Have those people accustomed to one kind of frame involved in considering descriptions generated by those accustomed to the oter frame, how things work, etc., 3. Focus on on new features brought out to alternate frame, regrouping, reordering features relative to each other, 4. Rename the features in terms of their functions in new frame. (See more on Schon.) Note the overall approach, but
particularly the "focusing" and "naming" steps, compared with Gendlin's process described below.)

Here is my interpretation of Gendlin's (1996) Focusing and his suggestions for facilitating it with my metaphor-related comments in [square brackets]:

Truly effective change or transformation comes, step by step, from directly sensing the concrete presence of experience. One may "understand" the nature of a problem or conflict, but not be able to change. On the other hand, by directly experiencing it as a whole, one's understanding can then encompass what is relevant for integration and effective change.

The concrete presence of experience is very often unconscious. Its presence may be sensed vaguely but not consciously experienced. The process of Focusing is all about first sensing the existence of something significant, being patient and staying with it although it is frustratingly unclear, trying subtle thought manoevers and paying attention in different ways to see if it will come into consciousness, waiting as necessary until "it" is ready, and eventually experiencing it directly and consciously. Only in this last step does one achieve a focus on the relevant material.

[Take, for example, a client's current direct experience of rage that is initially a vague state of distress or discomfort, though it may be alarming or even extreme. The client doesn't understand it, and we would say this is because the metaphor (metaphors are what we use to understand) is weak and/or unconscious, or his understanding is only literal, which could be quite "impoverished", as Lakoff and Johnson (1999) characterize literal understanding to be. Therapy, and particularly Focusing, may be viewed as a method to search for or create metaphor that brings richer meaning to experience (by mapping corresponding but better understood knowledge to it) and suggests apt inferences that can be made from the experience.

[Metaphor is also mostly unconscious. To bring it into conscious awareness requires redirection of attention, patience, etc. It is holistic. When the
Source Domain of a metaphor is triggered, it integrates diverse parts and details in the Target Domain, encompasses a whole pattern, gives access to its inferential structure, and invites exploration and change. Can not an apt metaphor, by mapping structure from a better-understood Source Domain, be said to allow more direct experiencing of certain relevant, Target Domain, material?]

LISTENING WITH CARE FOR NUANCES IN CLIENT'S ACCOUNT. As you listen to what a client has to say it is your job to hear it as much as possible from the client's point of view. Your comments feed back what you understand, and bring this into line with what the client actually means. While doing this you are sensing what aspects might yield an opening.

[Listen for incongruous language, note intonation, gestures, pauses, generic event structure, gaps - could also be what you sense is client's emphasis or puzzling aspect. Without an apt metaphor available, what the client might be able to remember or report may be very fragmentary.]

RESPONDING, QUESTIONING ABOUT "SOMETHING" THERE. Having identified a possible opening, your comments and questions draw attention to it. It may be vague and you allow it to remain so, as you give it the status of a "something" or an "it" which both you and the client identify. Most often what is unclear is likely to be more important than something clear. Your questions may seem to make unclear something that had been simple and clear. Encourage patience about it not being clear and help the client stay with that, in silence as necessary, rather than getting distracted or going into abstract conversation.

[In clarifying metaphor you would ask questions to see if client responds positively to the terms you use; but would you try to draw attention to the metaphor at this point? Why not, since you will want it marked out later anyway. Perhaps this is a good step to facilitate uncovering a metaphor (or co-creating one) and beginning to bring it into conscious awareness. This step adds the dimension of highlighting something that seems strange, unclear, not fitting in, yet important - e.g., distinguishing Source from Target. It raises the issue with the metaphor theorists about possible psychological incongruity as in indicator of metaphoricity, in addition to their semantic incongruity.]

FINDING A WORD OR NAME FOR THE WHOLE SENSE OF IT. Using the client's words where possible, work with the client to find the best word or short phrase which captures the whole of it, encompassing the intricacy. Look for a word or name that resonates and helps to hold it or return the client's attention to this aspect.

[The whole might be thought of as the full event structure and sequence. A metaphor that covers more in these respects would be global in Gendlin's sense, too. Psychologically, though, the word or name or metaphor description should easily call up and focus on the originally identified aspect.]

BODILY SENSING. In addition to words and images, ask client to look inside, particularly in trunk area or central part of the body, for internal sensations corresponding to it. These somatic schema may be jumpy, jittery,heavy, sticky or tight. Or, ask the client to imagine doing what was blocked or impeded and simultaneously sensing in the body. If this doesn't work, suggest the client describe the quality of not being able to imagine or feel. Or, ask the client to step back from it and identify the most important part of it. Regardless of how clearly the client responds, encourage staying with it, near it, sensing its edge, its fuzziness or strangeness, to touch or tap it gently and wait for it to open [come more into conscious awareness].

[Primary Conceptual Metaphors of bodily experience is mostly different from, but sometimes overlaping with, Gendlin's bodily sensing. Why couldn't this jumpy, jittery, heavy qualities extend to pushing, reaching, lifting? These
qualities imply obstacles, burdens, agitation - but there is more. For example, the client feeling rage begins to feel like he wants to charge, flail, bash and has the image of a raging person throwing things, etc. Eventually, with help from the therapist, he identifies this with the word "powerful". Powerful action has new inferences for him (compared with his initial state) and he has uncovered an apt metaphor Source Domain to map to his initial Target Domain.]

INVITING IT FORTH, BEING FRIENDLY TOWARDS IT. Whatever it is, clear or vague, strange or frightening, welcome it as a messenger with highly useful information, so as to encourage staying with it, waiting, watching, listening and feeling for more to be revealed. We do this with confidence that even if it is initially frustratingly unclear or even frightening, that by eventually opening it will become clearer and more comfortable.

[Since psychotherapy so often deals with distress, anxiety, fear, etc., this will be important. But working with conflicts and limitations may not always have this fearful or affective component, and may involve other, less-affective qualities such as safety, angst, a sense of development, effectiveness and positioning as well. Gendlin suggests staying near, watching, etc. to see what happens next. (DBM might prompt for some other angles by reviewing the experience with different motivational orientations.) Uncovering a metaphor might involve introduction of metaphoric terms in reflecting what the client says to see if the client finds them expressing more; this would be co-creation of a metaphor with the client.]

For me, Gendlin's pursuit of this "border zone" where meaning is constructed, runs parallel to our concern here to uncover a client's (or a mediator's) operating metaphor. Uncovering a metaphor involves identifying the "incongruous" or "rule-breaking" parts of a statement or utterance, particularly when we are interested in Primary Conceptual Metaphors, those that refer to bodily activity. Focusing involves finding the "fuzzy edges" of remembered experience, bodily experience in particular. The edges are fuzzy, and Gendlin's process is sometimes painstaking, because the experiences to be remembered (I speculate) are initially incongruent with the verbal thinking that dominates one's consciousness.

There is an important possible difference between psychotherapy and what we are doing here with metaphor: People come to psychotherapy with upsetting problems and the new meaning which relieves their distress may very well contradict their accustomed thinking and, for that reason, be initially difficult to focus on. (Compare first and second order thinking in Kittay's (1984) theory of metaphor with Watzlawick, Weakland, & Fisch's (1974) analysis of psychological problems; those authors identify certain important meanings to be difficult to focus on because they are at a different level than ordinary discourse, namely a level of meaning (according to Kittay) derived from the first, or a level (according to Watzlawick, et. al) where there are rules about the first).

An apt metaphor expands and enriches meaning. Identifying the fuzzy edges of a bodily memory may be an enrichment that is initially unwelcome and distressing. I propose that these are not qualitatively different, but rather are points on a continuum. Therefore it seems appropriate to me to use Gendlin's focusing process as a way to uncover operating metaphor.

See Exercises for examples of how this process may be used [where?].


Let us say that a client has told something about a conflict and you ask yourself what metaphor is operating. You don't see anything obvious in the language used that suggests anything and you are, for the time, not able to ask questions. Yet you somehow feel or believe that an important metaphor is in the client's thinking. Can you use "Focusing" to look for it? After all, Focusing seems intended for an individual to discover a felt sense within him or herself.

In addition, I don't see why you ought not use Focusing to investigate your own felt sense of important aspects of someone else's thinking. You won't necessarily have the same richness of information or sensations as the client on this matter. You will have to allow for your own subjectivity, projections, counter-transference and other kinds of confusion. And you will certainly have to take what you find and form questions to see if the client resonates with the metaphors you think you detect.

Another possibility is that you use Focusing to find out more about any metaphors you, yourself, are using as you work with the client. This would involve some of the same material, but your context is different than the client's.

Detecting a Metaphor in Language

A number of books and articles give details of methods for detecting metaphor (Kittay, 1987; Schon and Rein (1994); Cameron and Low, 1999; Steen [in Gibbs & Steen]; Kövecses, 2002; Cameron, 2003; Charteris-Black, 2004). Most of the methods are described for the researcher wanting to classify which language in printed discourse or transcribed talk is metaphorical and which is not. Little of what has been written is intended to guide the practitioner attempting in real time to identify metaphor during ongoing conversation or dialog. None that I have yet found discusses how to structure dialog with a person who is believed to be using metaphor, so as to investigate just what metaphors may actually be operating for the person. Nevertheless, understanding the research methods that have been used in detecting metaphor are helpful in to sensitize us to the presence of metaphor that isn't initially evident.

All of these approaches are germane as one progresses from a stepwise analytic approach to one that operates effortlessly while listening to what is said in real time.


Definitions and Approach

Kövecses (2002) provides a full description of metaphor structure, types of metaphor and typical source domains as a basis for metaphor detection.

Application to Real Time Dialog



Definitions and Approach

Eva Kittay (1987), a philosopher who has developed a semantic theory of metaphor, suggests looking for incongruence or "rule-breaking" in the use of language given the context of the Target Domain. Kittay argues that a metaphor is a linguistic unit at least a sentence in length. The context must be known. Kittay defines the particular word or words that are incongruent as the "focus" of a metaphor, and the rest of the sentence as making up the "frame". The "focus" alone is not enough to consitute a metaphor -- we must take the focus and frame together to grasp it.

Utterances can be said to have both first-order and second-order meaning. First-order meaning is the literal or conventional sense of what is said. Second-order meaning is a function of first-order or conventional meaning taking into account the context.

If an utterance includes a metaphor, it is the result of something that is incongruent or which breaks the implicit rules of the first-order meaning, and it shows up in the second-order meaning. Kittay (1987, p. 24) points out that the rule-breaking that produces metaphor cannot be arbitrary, but happens in specifiable ways. This allows us to tell the differences between metaphor and simple mistakes, or new or technical uses of certain words in combination.

What is the type of rule-breaking that produces metaphor? And how can we learn to identify it consciously? Philosophers like Kittay attempt to define the manner in which first-order meaning rules are broken using the precision of symbolic logic and linguistic analysis.

Application to Real Time Dialog

Here I shall try to take Kittay's points and put them in practical form. Practitioners wishing to apply metaphor skillfully must become sensitized to the incongruity and rule-breaking when it occurs spontaneously in spoken utterances.

Practice can begin analytically and pass eventually to fluent competence.

First, note what is being spoken about -- not the form of expression, the choice of words, or how words are used -- but simply the topic being spoken of.t

Next, identify the words or expressions which cohere or fit easily with the topic being spoken about and its context.

Then identify those that generate additional meaning, invoke a different context or are in some way incongruent. The meaning of these latter words or expressions will seem at least partially unavailable or inappropriate as they apply to the topic. The listener will have to bring in

additional context or experience in order to make sense of them

To test whether certain words or expressions are truly metaphoric, see if you can make simple substitutions that are not incongruent and do not break any rules yet express the same description or proposition. If, with the simple word or phrase substitutions, the utterance conveys the same meaning, then no metaphor was present. If, on the other hand the utterance means something different or means less, then metaphor was present.

Example: "They rediscovered their passion for ice cream."

Note what is being spoken about: Very simply it is their awareness that their positive attitude about ice cream has been re-established.

Note the words that cohere or fit easily with what is being spoken about: rediscovering [something in common] about ice cream.

Identify words that generate additional meaning, are incongruent, or invoke different context: The word "passion" evokes an erotic context and has additional meaning -- a consuming, firey interest, more in the context of sex or a life's work.

Test with simple substitutions: If we substitute "interest", "preference" or even "desire" for "passion" we end up with something less than the original utterance. Even "intense interest" doesn't give as complete a meaning as the original. Using the word "passion" in this sentence results in a description of something more enduring, more consuming and perhaps delightful.


Definitions and Approach

Schön and Rein see "problem formulations and preferred solutions... grounded in different problem-setting stories rooted in different frames that may rest, in turn, on different generative metaphors." (1994, p. 29) The implication is that if you change the frame metaphor you can alter the conflict and perhaps resolve it. Note that this use of "frame" differs from that of Kittay (who defines "frame" as the rest of the words - or context - of the focus words in an utterance; the idea of context is somewhat consistent).

Schon and Rein don't seem to isolate particular metaphoric words in an utterance so much as they try to draw our attention to an image. So if we speak of conflict over health care, talking about how a number of specialists see the patient individually, each reporting on what they are best equipped to examine, we may picture how this may or may not form a whole picture or, on the other hand, sum up to a lot of separate fragments. From this we might assume a frame metaphor of wholeness -- with the normative expectation (compare with Lakoff's 1993 description of inference patterns) that we should strive for an integrated whole. An opposing view might see the work of many specialists framed as worker bees each doing their appointed work, working as a team, or as doctors going into depth framed as the place where the real nature of the patient's problems can be found.

In this treatment of frame we rely not on particular words that are uttered but on images that might come to one's mind upon reflection, and the metaphors that these images represent. Furthermore, Schön and Rein express the belief that the number of such underlying frame metaphors (although their particular instantiations may be very diverse and numerous) is small. This suggests that familiarity with a manageable number of typical frame metaphors could well equip mediators to sense such frames and thus better facilitate resolution of conflict.


The next question is what might the mediator do, having listened to a description of a problem or conflict, to extract or detect the frame metaphor. We might use the artificial removal tactic again and ask for a new description, but done with no reference to the image identified. So, continuing the health care example, describe what the system of specialists do without reference to pieces, parts, wholes, integration, fragmentation, etc. (e.g., several doctors who each know a great deal about certain aspects of the case collaborate, join in their efforts, make a team that...)

Perhaps more difficult is to continue the discussion after somehow eliminating the image as a guiding schema in the discussion (e.g., note any images in your mind and try to discuss this issue without using that image at all...). Or, instead of images, speak of concepts, ask the disputants to identify the concepts they have been using. Then ask them to describe the situation without employing those concepts (e.g., "you've been speaking of 'fairness', 'whole person'... please describe the situation without using such concepts.")

Schön's (1993), in fact, describes "restructuring and coordinating conflicting frames" -- a process of immersion into the concrete experience surrounding a dilemma, have those people actually involved in situation tell their stories relatively free of customary categories that lets one frame be suspended but another not fully formed, to get information-rich descriptions where events are juxtaposed in time, and coming up with new, generative metaphors to dissolve frame conflict, express "hidden" meaning, and find more beneficial ways of resolving difficulties. Schon suggests four steps: 1. Info-rich, category-free story telling, 2. Have those people accustomed to one kind of frame involved in considering descriptions generated by those accustomed to the other frame, how things work, etc., 3. Focus on new features brought out to alternate frame, regrouping, reordering features relative to each other, 4. Rename the features in terms of their functions in new frame. (See how this relates to Gendlin's "focusing".)

These four steps could be taken as instructions for removing the existing metaphor language and trying to think about the situation without it. Lakoff and Johnson (1999) emphasize how impoverished our non-metaphorical, more literal language and thinking can be. So these four steps may, more quickly than desired, lead to adoption or creation of an alternate metaphor. Nevertheless, the conflict resolution process may be well served.

Schön and Rein (1994) mention that traditional conflict resolution assumes that disputants are motivated by their differing interests. Yet they understand these interests (metaphorically) in terms of their frames. The frames, therefore influence the interests and vice versa, although frames and interests are logically independent concepts ("...interests are shaped by frames and frames are used to promote interests" - p. 29 - and you might also say that interests motivate use of frames).

Elsewhere in their (1994) book, Schön and Rein describe how disputants and negotiators might approach the frames that underly their conflict, by describing "frame reflection." By this they mean becoming consciously aware of the frames disputants are using, and this is usually done by naming the frames, thinking about how they work, and deliberately trying to think outside of them. This is most often described as thinking about situations more and more abstractly until the principles become apparent. Later they point out that such abstract thinking may not be necessary, just as one may play ball or pool well, with apparent understanding of the principles such as Newton's laws of mechanics.

Application to Real Time Dialog


Definitions and Approach

Cameron (2003), studying the use of metaphor in education, first notes that the teaching-learning function (contrary to the conduit metaphor which implies that knowledge in the teacher is transmitted through a channel to the learner) involves the learner noticing a difference between his current understanding and something in the environment (such as what a teacher presents), and if the difference is within an optimal limit, he then tries to construct from his own experience an understanding that incorporates the difference (compare with Gibbs' "perceptual simulation<14>39web_ttfiles/ttRelated_Subjects.htm#Perceptual_Simulation<15> "; compare with Fauconnier & Turner's discussion of emergent meaning in the "blend" space). Figures of speech, particularly metaphor, can be key in introducing optimal differences, and the logic and structure of a metaphor can influence how the learner constructs a new understanding. (Other influences can be comparison, hyperbole, analogy, etc.)

Cameron (2003) speaks of two necessary conditions that must be met for words to indicate the existence of a metaphor. First the word or words are incongruous or anomalous in the context used, and second the incongruity or anomoly can be resolved or made sense of by finding a parallel between source and target domains that results in a transfer of meaning from the former to the latter. The amount of meaning transferred may be large (perhaps owing to the distance or difference between the source domain and the target), in which case the metaphor is stronger; or it may be small, in the case of a weak metaphor.

Cameron discusses a number of other factors that influence and qualify judgements of metaphoricity, but none of them alone is sufficient to place a given example into the category of metaphor, although it may be sufficient to disqualify it; these include instances of technical language, animaton or personification, where other metaphors, metonymies or idioms are present, highly conventionalized usage, co-location of nouns with verbs, prepositions, and comparisons. Metaphor, therefore, is not a strictly bounded, classic category in which every example meeting certain qualifications is included, but a family resemblance or radial category where prototypical examples meeting most or all qualifications are central and marginal examples meet fewer qualifications and are therefore more peripheral.

Application to Real Time Dialog

As do other scholars, Cameron painstakingly analyzes written transcripts of dialog and deliberates over each instance to decide if it is truly metaphoric or not, not claiming to identify metaphor rapidly or in real time. Nevertheless two notions are mentioned that may help:

The first notion from Cameron to guide us in real time idenfication of metaphors is that of noting parallels between source and target domains that resolve incongruity. One might note an incongruous word, identify the source domain, and then ask oneself what parallels exist between source and target domains. Finding such parallels could aid in naming correspondence mappings also.

The second notion is of the amount of meaning transferred from the source domain (and the relative "strength" of the metaphoric transfer), which seems to be something one could learn to pay conscious attention to. For example, a speaker may liken the building of a bird feeder to building a human habitation. Certain functional attributes and steps in the building of the bird feeder might be transferred analogously to the building of a human dwelling, but the degree of metaphoricity is small. On the other hand if the speaker talked of a house budding and then blossoming, not only would a great deal of meaning about the process be transferred, but also of the design, texture, aesthetics, etc., making this example "more" metaphoric.


Definitions and Approach

Charteris-Black (2004) observes that definitions of metaphor are not in agreement, but concludes that metaphor may have:

1. Semantic aspects, such that a speaker or writer has consciously or unconsciously chosen certain words or terms that are in tension with other words used and consequently may draw the hearer's or reader's attention particularly. This occurs when the words do one or more of the following:

Reify (concretize an abstraction by mapping a bodily or physical experience in the Source domain to a more abstract Target - e.g., he slogged through his studies; the product of all that thinking; she felt his love warm her), [note also gramatical metaphors that make verbs into nouns, processes into objects]

Personify (give characteristics of a person in the Source domain to an animal or thing in the Target, or of an animate being to an inanimate being - e.g., the plant died of not being loved; the car needed to be driven), [note also the Great Chain of Being generic-level metaphor] or

Depersonify (give characteristics of an innimate thing to an animate being - e.g., that keeps his motor running; a light bulb went on inside her head).

[I would want to add here the introduction of force dynamics language, such as reaching, pushing, moving, grabbing, etc. -- although these might be considered examples of personification.]

2. Cognitive aspects that alter the hearer's or reader's ideas or cognitive structure by introducing as the Source domain content or structure that, when mapped across, is inconcruous in the Target domain, yet somehow seen as similar or associated. [Cognitive aspects are what Kittay (1987) and Lakoff & Johnson (1999) most often illustrate.] I take this to mean changes in concepts and, since a major portion of concepts are metaphorically defined, the introduction of a set of relations that were not present before the metaphor appeared, and that now blend or conflict with, supercede or extend those concepts already operating. The examples given above all have cognitive aspects [in fact, what examples don't?].

3. Pragmatic aspects (what the hearer or reader is intended to understand from words and context, perhaps covertly) that pursuade or influence the content, direction and degree of certain opinions, evaluations, interpretations or judgments, that may involve or induce emotions, and may reveal the speaker's or writer's intentions or purpose.

[This is most similar to Schön's (1993) normative expectation<14>07C:\Axon2005\metares\mainmenu.xon<15>, Eubank's (2000) rhetorical etiquette (insofar as sets of opposing metaphors, claiming/ascribing and enhancing/attenuating is concerned), or resemble the rhetorical manipulation or promulgation of a latent ideology, and otherwise impart regimes of truth (as summarized by Goatly, 2002)]

Charteris-Black has a multi-step metaphor identification process where first he closely reads samples of text to find incongruous words that he judges to cause semantic tension at linguistic, pragmatic or cognitive levels. Then he identifies the metaphors that resolve these tensions and selects a set of key words from among those found that signal the metaphor. Finally he uses a computer to search the text for instances of the key words, and selects those instances that are metaphoric, discarding literal instances.text

Application to Real Time Dialog

So, as we listen to or read something we might ask about the semantic elements,

- Which words introduce any tension between their more normal, literal use and their use here?

- Which draw attention by objectifying or making the abstract, complex or hidden into the physical or concrete?

- Which words have the effect of animating the discourse by talking of the inanimate or the less animate in terms of people?

- Which slow, simplfy, collapse or mechanize by talking of the animate in terms of the inanimate?

As we listen to or read something we might also ask regarding cognitive elements,

- What metaphoric concepts have been introduced?l ex

- Which concepts were in play before the metaphor appeared (and are replaced)?

- What is the effect of the entailments, inference structure, etc. of the metaphor in indicating other meaning?

- What meaning is masked, superceded, changed or extended? What am I to understand differently? What understanding is being developed?

- What other metaphors might have been introduced instead and with different effect?

And finally as we listen to or read something we might ask in terms of pragmatic elements,

- What emotions do I have after hearing/reading this?

- What opinion am I to have, or what judgment or evaluation am I to make? Instead of what? What opinion, etc. am I not to have?

- Are opposing or contrasting directions given (that might induce irony or paradox)?

- If the rhetoric were to be overt or stated literally, what would it be?

- What is the speaker/writer's purpose, intent, direction?

- Does it ascribe to another, or claim for one's own?

- Is the purpose, intent or direction enhanced or attenuated by rhetorical means?


Definitions and Approach


Application to Real Time Dialog


More Notes on Application to Real Time Dialog

Smith (2005a)<14>49papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=727223<15> illustrates many possible applications of the above to real time dialog, including the following:

Additional, but as yet unmentioned, entailments of a metaphor that is already in play can be introduced to explore or expand possible meaning or options.

Contrasts between literal meaning and metaphorical meaning can be highlighted as irony or paradox.

Various aspects of a single metaphor (e.g., the very often-used Journey metaphor) mentioned at different moments can be brought together to unify a theme or discussion; this may be possible using a major aspect of a conceptual metaphor (e.g., for Journey metaphor, introducing the idea of a map).

Proposals can be made metaphorically, instead of literally, in order to try out certain ideas; metaphor allows you to retreat from a proposal without literally having made it; likewise, one may metaphorically agree, and thus discuss a matter hypothetically, while not committing literally; similarly a mediator can take sides metaphorically in order to redirect the discussion, while literally remaining neutral; sincere views can be put in metaphoric form and thus expressed more indirectly.

A metaphor could be used to exagerate an idea to highlight its features.

Metaphor can be modulated or inflected to strengthen or to attenuate a characterization; for example, the "journey" toward agreement could be a major voyage of world discovery or a simple fishing expedition.

Become conscious of restraints and direction imposed: Identify the metaphor in use and then discuss what that tends to exclude from the discussion.

Deliberately exclude a dominant metaphor: Identify the metaphor being used, then have participants continue the discussion in such a way that the metaphor is not used at all.

Shift a dominant metaphor to one that shares certain entailments: If a metaphor such as Discussion is Fight is being used, have participants convert this to Discussion is Game.



How Gaps Filled In

Familiar Sequences

Do you find a familiar sequence present? Is there a series of events?

Do you find a familiar pattern of relationships among elements?

Do you find Time accounted for in a distinctive way?

Look for the "generic level structure" as described by Lakoff (


Introspection & Investigating Metaphor

While metaphor is investigated using the empirical methods of experimental psychology and the dialectic of literary criticism, its appeal may come primarily from its subjective usefulness. We might not care that much about metaphor if we didn't find ourselves using it so much.

I would say we use it so much because metaphor is a means of focusing attention, understanding, remembering, explaining and exploring -- among numerous other cognitive activities. All such activities have a decidedly phenomenal experience to them (although they may possibly be detected in other ways as well, such as by behavior in an experimental procedure, verbal report, language analysis, brain scans, skin conductance, eye movement, etc.). And it is the personal, subjective, phenomenal experiences that guide us.

Sorting Out the Reference Point

-- Under Construction --

--Question-- Is introduction of a (markedly) different Point of View in the Target Domain an indication of metaphor? A change in point of view, say from one person's perspective to another, introduces the idea of distance, angle, perceptual filters, time as a continuum, or whatever, and this maps one domain onto another; that is the essential definition of metaphor. However, the Source Domain may be difficult to name in terms of a "conventional" metaphor. Primary Conceptual Metaphors of space and bodily movement may be easier to recognize (by changing point of view the activity attended to becomes located in a space with larger or different boundaries. or becomes an activity within another activity).
The alternatives below having to do with how the world works, etc.,

Alternative 1: Focus on How World Works (external aspects)

Here is a proposal for finding the client's reference point by following these steps:

1. Query distinction between How the World Works vs. How You Work It.
Distinctions can be explored in several ways. For example, (a) what is the different between...? how do you know...? what is the first sign of...?; (b) transitions: at what point does X become (make, cause, move...) Y? (c) unpacking: what is it that makes it X (and not Z)? are there different kinds of X? what was it before it became X? who does the Xing?

2. For How the World Works, query the distinction between direct, sensory, concrete experience vs. accounts from someone else (which are likely to be metaphorical).

3. For both How the World Works and for How You Work It, identify operating metaphors used to understand each one.
If metaphors are not apparent, ask for distinctions (e.g., how do you tell if this is what you say, or if this works like ...). Note, as client explains how s/he knows or tells, the metaphor elements that are used.

4. For each metaphor, identify levels as follows -- what is present? What is missing?
Principals/Direction (Epistemology, explanation, Why, Why evaluated good or bad? principles, direction, Why are we doing this? Why this choice? Why is problem formulated in this way? Reasons or purposes, Identity, Values, Why this context, general approach, direction?
Strategies/Management Function )arising from general knowledge of How things work, how to work them. Applying scripts, norms, rules, policies and strategies. Enabling and constraining patterns.
Performance (Carrying something out, doing it, the what, which, who, where and when in discrete instances and ordered sequences. Procedures, methods.
Spore, Seed, husk, isolate (Metaphor element(s) in isolation.)

5. Elements present or missing: Agent, Affected Entity, Force, Obstacles, Possessions.

6. Causation.

Alternative 2: Emphasis on How You Work It (internal aspects)

Query what is the distinction and how is it distinquished -- What is going on 'inside' right now? How do you tell what it is? Do you feel something in your body or is it something else? What makes these different? What's happening with you right now? Are you sensing a response in your body? Are you aware that you are instinctively/unconsciously responding (is your response instinctive or unconscious)? What is the signal you get from inside?

Do you sense that you are pulled, pushed, squashed, weighted down, blocked, that you are pulling back, pushing forward, ducking...? [more performance level]

Are you unsettled, affraid, aggrivated, irritated, angry, exasperated...? [strategy level]

Are you not yourself, off course, unable to move forward or go on...? [principal level]

[If client gives a strong response focusing on outside events, forces or people, say] Your reaction seems purely natural... I understand completely how this affects/bothers you... I want to understand better just what your own experience of this is right now. Please tell me more about the impact you feel... what you felt just before you figured it out? the sense you had just before (without looking at/ by putting aside what you figured out) you were conscious of the reasons.

---Another view:---

Point of view can be thought of in terms of Essential Elements such that you are "choosing" to report observations, events, etc. initiated by or happening to one of the elements. For example, if someone is talking or thinking about a situation at work that has hurt his feelings, one space might include a person or circumstnces in the work environment that is Agent, acting upon him (the Affected Entity) with some forcefulness. He could switch to a space where he is the Agent acting on his thoughts, perhaps moving things around so that he receives insights (Possessions). Then he may act upon the situation, and at this point the Agent-Affected Entity relationship is reversed compared with the first space mentioned above.

This can be said to comprise a "mental space". Other mental spaces can exist (and may be open) at the same time. Switching from one space to another, or talking in terms of more than one a time is common (if sometimes confusing), but the multiple spaces are essential for understanding.

All of this can be thought of on at least three levels (Principals, Strategy, and Performing).

[Locate each DBM model in this grid.]

Metaphor describes how previous or other experience is used to form parallel mental spaces.

Source Domain and Target Domain

Conceptual Blending Theory

The Source and Target Domains are sometimes referred to in the cognitive science literature as conceptual spaces or mental spaces. The Target Domain has also been called the tenor or the topic. The Source Domain has also been called the vehicle. Some researchers (Fauconnier & Sweetser, 1996) propose a conceptual integration network of four spaces -- Target, Source, Generic and Blended: the Target and Source spaces share common, low-level knowledge in the Generic space. The transfer of intelligence results in a Blended space without altering the original Source and Target. See "blending" in Metaphor Links for a summary.

Also referred to as "conceptual integration", blending theory uses language, imagey and inferential structure as evidence for projection of meaning between and among cognitive domains or spaces. Like conceptual metaphor theory, blending theory speaks of constraints on what will be projected based on similarities and differences among the spaces (Grady,Oakley, & Coulson, 1999).

What is different is that metaphor theory involves only two spaces (Source and Target) while blending theory will often have four or more spaces (two input, a generic or shared space, and a result or blend space); metaphor theory speaks of projections in one direction only while blending theory provides for multi-directions; metaphor theory concerns itself primarily with conventional mappings developed over long periods and widely shared, while blending theory can accomodate sudden, emergent, "online", "real-time", and novel cross-domain mappings.

Conceptual blending involves three processes: (1) Composition is the projection of content from each input space into the blended space, including "fusion" of elements from the inputs. (2) Completion is the process of filling in information from memory. (3) Elaboration is the mental running through of behavior projected into the blend space to include more of what is known than might have initially appeared in the input spaces, and often producing novel or unique results in emergent structure.

Blends can be metaphorical, but need not be. Sometimes blends use strictly literal inputs. Non-metaphoric linguistic structures studied under blending theory include counterfactuals (e.g., "If I were you..."), verb tenses, conditional and other modal or modified constructions, jokes, similarity, and non-metaphoric analogy; it offers further insights into areas that metaphor theorists have already studied, such as mathmatical thought, personification and identity, and allegory. All of these recruit knowledge structures from domains or spaces not at first evident or focused upon. All help in explaining how abstract and more subjective concepts are understood in terms of more concretely experienced, better understood ones (in the case of metaphor) or previously blended ones (in the case of blending theory).

Five "optimality" principals govern the blending process: (a) Integration -- the blend should be well-integrated visually. (b) Web -- tight connections should be maintained such that any event in an input space results in a corresponding event in the blend space. (c) Unpacking -- given the blend it should be straightforward to reconstruct the inputs and connections between elements. (d) Topology -- relationships between elements in the blend should correspond to relationships in the inputs. (e) Good Reason -- an element appearing in the blend should have meaning.

Some believe that blending theory subsumes metaphor theory (e.g., Turner) and others see it the other way around (e.g., Veale). They can probably be seen more as complementary than in competition. Metaphor may ultimately be seen as a special case of the various forms of indirect reference studied using blending theory, much the same as the transfer of structure in non-metaphoric cases. Metaphor theory focuses more on recurring, even entrenched conventional patterns while blending theory more on real-time particulars that evolve during an exchange. Metaphor theory can also be seen as studying the initial inputs to what might dynamically evolve from the point of view of blending theory. Lakoff & Johnson (1999) theorize that complex metaphors are blends of primary conceptual metaphors.

My view is that blending theory has much to offer the mediator because of these latter points. However, it is considerably more difficult to learn to use in face-to-face dialog and must await the development of better methods to train mediators in its use (something no one has begun, as far as I know).

Although Blending Theory does not speak of the following, these would seem worthwhile areas to explore in this connection:

A Source Domain can be "opened" at different "levels":

At different levels - at least 3: (Principal, Strategy, Procedure - see "Conventional" Metaphor & Primary Conceptual Metaphor above, under
Additional Notes on this Menu page).

Considering What, How, Why.

Considering Product, Process, Working the Process.

From different Reference Points (e.g., disputant 1, disputant 2, what disputant 1 thinks is disputant 2's, etc.).

From different parts of the Life Grid.

More than one Source Domain or aspect of Source Domain may be "open" at the same time; or, being "open" to one may lead to the "opening" of another. Sometimes the two or more Source Domains "open" at the same time may be in conflict. Other times, oscillation may occur back and forth between Source Domains because of the dynamics that characterize the different domains. Such oscillations may give the appearance of uncertainty, indecision or vascillation.

Metonymic Substitutions

Definition of metonymy...

Borberly (2004)...

(many words might seem to suggest metaphors, but may instead by operational definitions (specification) or mytonyms: Retail is Foot Traffic seems to offer a possible metaphor because the apparent source is more concrete, etc., but foot traffic is actually part of retail; also, taken with other such, it could build up a specification for, or operational definition of retail; one could hypothesize a conceptual metaphor that might resolve lexical tension (Charteris-Black, 2004), in this example, Retail is River, more specifically Retail is River of Money-Carrying Objects; there may not be lexical evidence for such a metaphor, in which case you would only want to introduce it tentitively; on the other hand, there may be other metonyms or terms that, together, provide additional lexical evidence - e.g., "income stream", "flow of goods", "saturated market", "torrent of advertizing")

(could it be said that, while metaphor is thinking about something in terms of something else that makes it MORE, metonymy is thinking about something in terms of part of itself, which is LESS or more narrowly focused? Each has its uses -- metaphor evoking the parallels with something else to provide substance and logic not otherwise accessible; metonymy to simplify and provide shorthand handles to stand for a welter of substance and logic -- one unpacks, the other reduces to, or packs up)

Mediators Use Metaphor to Think About What They Do

Scientific Study of Negotiation Based on Metaphor

Multiple Metaphors


Allegory, Extended Metaphor, Narrative, Stories.

Where an extended metaphor will have language referring both to the target and the source domain, allegory references only the source, and metaphor within the allegory maps to the source from other (possibly imaginary) domains. You must infer the target to "apply" the allegory to "real life." (see Crisp, Metaphor & Symbol 20(2) for illustrations of extended metaphor from Charles Causley and allegory from Dante.) Narratives and stories may be like allegories, but may not adhere consistently to a particular source domain.

Taking the example brought up by a workshop participant,
"The Remains of the Day" (a film with Anthony Hopkins, depicting a butler to the lord of a manor pre-WWII), this could be considered a metaphor: Life is Service to a Master. But this may be an allegory because the target (one's life) is never referred to, and is adduced by the viewer. If we take it as a metaphor, then correspondences are: one's life corresponds to the butler's life; one's higher purpose or one's father or boss is the lord of the manor; the hierarchy in the household is the chain of being in the universe or the authority structure in the house; obedience to duty in one's life is the obedience/responsibility of butler to lord, etc. The inference structure involves carrying on, keeping order according accepted principles, accepting apparent lapses in the master as things we can't fully understand from below, etc. Each angle shown and each episode depicted in the story triggers additional entailments of the metaphor. Considering the metaphor in all its possible entailments (of family, chain of being, church hierarchy...) could give rise to additional episodes not depicted the film, such as ones involving mother figures, scripture, personification...

Allegory has a story-like or extended form where metaphor is presented in terms of roles, characters, images, scenes, series of events, etc. Fables and parables are included. The Source Domain might be any of the other "forms"
considered here, or a number of different ones.

Allegories include a variety of Elements, perhaps multiple
Reference Points or points of view, etc.

Recall that metaphor, compared to analogy (David Gentner
analolgy theorist: “Structure Mapping: A Theoretical. Framework for Analogy”) where a comparison or likening is explicit, is usually imbedded in discourse or description that may sound literal but is actually metaphoric. This can be the case with Narrative or "higher level" metaphor where a sequence of events of a certain type, or a story line, corresponds to a well-known metaphor or allegory (e.g., when his son got home late he interrogated him about everything that happened (Parental Discipline is Criminal Investigation); she was an expert in detecting the slightest source of trouble (Identifying Fault is the Princess and the Pea)).

Sequences may be different from different Points of View...

Sequences are often locations along a path. These locations have spatial relations one to another; direction and front/back, above/below, in/out, before/after... Desired objects or goals are Destinations. Once begun a story or allegory is self-propelled to its conclusion. This movement is mapped to the Target, as are the locations along the way, the path choices, obstacles, etc. (In argumentation, allegory or story arguments invoke the characters, plot, sequence, and a particular outcome.)

Individual acts can be taken together to form a sequence. Missing parts of the sequence are searched for and included (also see How Gaps Filled In). Such a sequence may not form a narrative, but may become one by finding and adding layers of strategy or direction.

What is a narrative? As mentioned, we may regard an account of series of events (in the Performing layer) to be a narrative once we understand some of the other layers (Aims/Direction; Strategies/Emerging Qualities). The multiple levels working together, along with time sequence(s) (aspect) and event sequence/structure(s) from one or more metaphors, give a "story quality" to the account. Strategies may be revealed by examples in the Performing layer. Aim/Direction may have to be inferred.

Also see Reissman, C. K. (1990) Divorce Talk: Women and men make sense of personal relationships. London: Rutgers University Press.
Reissman, C. K. (2001) Analysis of personal narratives, in J. F. Gubrium and J. A. Holstein (eds.), Handbook of Interviewing. London: Sage.

Forceville ("The Source-Path-Goal Schema in First-Person Documentaries", paper given at RAAM V, Université de Paris 13, 2003) cites Johnson's description of the STORY is A JOURNEY metaphor (beginning, middle, end), LIFE IS A JOURNEY (birth, maturing, death), and JOURNEY, itself (start, travel, destination), as sharing the same underlying schema of "Source-Path-Goal." Per Lakoff and Johnson, this schema is central; it is embodied as the body's prototypical trajectory from one point to another -- a most important source domain for abstract concepts. This schema provides overall coherence to otherwise seemingly arbitrary events and would seem to structure allegory as well. Furthermore, even when an allegory speaks literally of travel or a journey, the schematic parallels with Life and Story offer additional layers of emergent meaning (Gineste, et. al, "Emergence of Features in Metaphor Comprehension", Metaphor and Symbol, 15: 3,117-135).

B. Nerlich spoke at RaAM 6 (2006) about "mini-narratives" inpolitical discourse that included metaphor combinations using War, House, and Journey. She points out that this reduces complexity of political events so the public might better understand.

A story or narrative (like a novel) has a beginning, middle and end. Thus, a Target Domain consisting, say, of minimal elements can have mapped upon it a Source Domain story line that guides one's reasoning to expect a similar plot, characters, events, ending, etc. to the Source. Also a Target may consist of an extended account that comprises a story in its own right (most likely primarily in the Performance layer). Source Domain stories may fill in gaps, not only in the Performing Layer, but by inference in the Strategy and Aims layers. In this way narratives come to "make sense."

In one sense someone's story or narrative isn't a metaphor because it is meant as literal (even though it may perhaps contain simple metaphoric terms that summarize or enliven the account). In another sense the whole narrative account can be meant as the Source Domain of a metaphor mapped to a problem/dispute Target Domain. Reasoning about where you find yourself at the moment (Target) is guided by the story it is believed to be part of (Source).

The post-modern assertion that experience is made up of diverse narratives without a unifying principal or meta-narrative is modified by this metaphor account. Narratives can be more fully understood through a web of intersecting (although not necessarily coherent) metaphors. This is different from the elegant map or model of the world that modernists believed would provide definitive conclusions, though quite capable of offering insight and guidance for the discovery and exploration of uncharted spaces.

Conceptual Blending Theory (see Menu page, under Additional Notes on right) offers additional avenues for understanding allegory: Multiple domains or spaces are involved that may include partial, temporary representations that perceived, imagined, past, present or future, structure is not only mapped from one of the domains, but it also may emerge from the combination through the processes of completion or elaboration ("simulated mental performance of the event in the blend" that may continue indefinitely; see M. Sinding, "Assembling Spaces: the Conceptual Structure of Allegory", and also for more on what is discussed below).

Elaboration, as postulated in blending theory, gives the resultant mapping "a life of its own". The generic Event Structure metaphor (see Elements in Uncovering Metaphor on main menu) or Events are Actions metaphor (presumably present in the generic space, which is one of four spaces used in forming a blend) provides action that may be played out and repeated. Furthermore, blends are recursive such that a blend resulting from one step may immediately be the input for another blend. This provides a basis for imagination, but imagination governed by known inputs and contraints of the conceptual system in question.

A blend is metaphoric when the resulting fusion is asymmetric in the sense that one input space projects material onto the other (but not vice versa as blending theory would otherwise allow) and thus reframes the Target space. That metaphoric result may then be input for subsequent blends. In this way allegory is the concatenation of metaphors, or what could be called "extended metaphor". It is most familiar when such a string of metaphors is further organized under a global, unifying metaphor.

But this is not all that may be needed to account for the unity that allegories can have. The principals of completion and elaboration can continue to operate to develop the concatenated whole, producing structure that is not forseen from analysis of the parts, and that is both manipulable in its own right while providing access back to the contituent inputs. It may be this generative extensibility along with clear reference to inputs that makes allegory so "meaningful." So we have metaphoric inputs generating emergent structure that reframes a Target Domain that then, recursively, may blend (perhaps with other metaphoric input) generating further emergent structure, and so on. If we have a unifying metaphor we have allegory; if not perhaps what we have is simply a not-so-well-formed, yet still menaingful, line of thought.

There may be generic allegory forms analogous to generic metaphor structure (e.g., Event Structure metaphor - see Elements.).

Metaphor Form

Cause and Effect Metaphors

Lakoff & Johnson on Causal Metaphor

Metaphors of Cause and Effect In Mediation

I have chosen here to focus on metaphors of cause and effect because of my personal experience. My mediation practice deals primarily with family disputes and I find that a great many of the disagreements between clients are fundamentally about cause and effect. For example, clients disagree about what has caused a family member's misbehavior and what will prevent recurrence, how various factors contribute to a child's development or doing well in school, or why the results will be better if one family member makes a certain decision instead of another.

The causal links in question are difficult to know objectively and the disputes hinge on subjective estimates or interpretations of what has caused or will cause what. Such subjective estimates or interpretations depend at least partly upon the individual client's use of metaphor to understand how things work, and very often such metaphors operate unconsciously.

So the mediator can make immediate progress by helping clients bring their metaphoric thinking into the open. Clarifying implicit metaphors assists clients in explaining what they mean and, as we shall see later, the revealed structure of a metaphor automatically offers new options and alternatives. Just about every thought or discussion relies on primary conceptual metaphor to express meaning. As later examples show, the language does not have to evoke rich imagery or novel allusion to be powerfully metaphoric.

Each client statement or action can be taken as a metaphor fragment. Clients talk about causal relations in simple terms such as force, movement, boundaries and changes in location. My approach is simply to look for such references in what they say. From this I begin to understand the speaker's mental model of what causes what. This helps me identify the speaker's explanation for what has happened in the past or predictions for the future.

As I gather this information about force, movement, boundaries and changes in location, etc., usually I find myself tripping over suggestions of how the human body moves, applies force, or manipulates things. In other words, I can see the likeness between what the client is talking about (target domain) and how the human body moves in its environment (source domain). This brings the client's operating metaphor into conscious awareness.

Because we are focusing on metaphors about causation, note that these metaphors help reveal how clients explain causes historically and predict future events. With regard to future events, the core of causation in the metaphoric account - agency - not only helps predict effects from known causes, but also facilitates choice of causal factors and manipulation of such aspects as their force and direction to produce particular effects.

I want to emphasize not only what causes produce what effects, but also how the causes work. Knowing more about "how" allows a client to reason with more precision about how an agent, needing to influence future events, might get fuller access to a range of causal possibilities with which to reason forward in time. The metaphoric account provides useful structure for this and invites consideration of "what if" conditions. Because bodily movement is the source of the metaphor, clients have access to the full range of its causal logic and can apply it to the target domain of interest.

Causal Chains and Past Versus Future Orientations in Mediation.
In facilitative or integrative mediation styles, heavy emphasis is placed on future orientation and correspondingly less emphasis placed on the origin or exacerbation of problems. So, although a family problem may seem to have started when one member began some pattern of behavior, when someone became ill or when the economy took a downturn and affected the family finances, the emphasis in medition is likely to be on what might be done now to adapt to or ameliorate ongoing problems.

As mediators we can understand this emphasis as a choice of where to focus or intervene in a causal chain. Events today may have distal causes far in the past. The further into the past you focus, the more complex it becomes, because causal chains branch in multiple directions as you go backwards in time. Because of this you can understand todays events as having been produced by combinations of many influences from many sources. Not only that, but there are many links in each chain or branch of a chain -- intermediate events that might represent choice points where people could have made different decisions that would have led to different outcomes.

While the chain of distal causes are of interest since they may represent more basic or essential influences, the more proximal, near-term causes can seem more accessible in terms of memory, control and simplicity. If disputants can recall more recent events more easily and clearly (with less disagreement), have more control because they can imagine alternatives in present situations more easily than changing the past, and if the overall number and interaction of factors is simpler, why not mediate understanding of the proximal causes instead of the distal ones?

Common Objects & Practices

Categories, Concepts, Frames and Metaphors

When you look at the list of metaphors of common objects and practices, cultural metaphors, etc., many of the metaphor names might also be considered simply as categories or concepts (e.g., wine, house, game, courage). If they are metaphors, how do they differ from categories or concepts?

Concepts and categories organize coherent segments of our experience and facilitate groupings. They assist us in making distinctions more usefully than would be the case if the only thing we had to use was basic sensory experience. Concepts interpret our experience by organizing it in terms of distinctions. Categories group distinct experiences as if they were equivalent and, in doing so, influence the formation or reformation of concepts. (An instructive personal exercise is to recount a recent experience, list the objects, actions and events that you can name, and then ask yourself how you know each of them is what you called them. For example, "Last night I watched a charming film." How do you know that you "watched" it, and not just looked at it? Why "charming" and not some other word?)

Metaphors extend pre-existing categories by mapping the sensorimotor properties of objects and actions onto subjective experience. In the above example, "watched" may evoke the actual experience of actively paying attention to details; "charming" may map sensory experience of letting go, feeling relaxed, or allowing yourself to be led onto the experience of seeing the film.

Metaphor may express distinctions or implicit comparisons between categories without explicitly identifying the comparison. For example, "She swept through the room" subtly categorizes the manner of moving without explicitly mentioning crawling, marching, sneaking or just simply walking.

Concepts can be variously defined. Concepts are named using nouns or noun-like words or terms that point to a complex of characteristics. Concepts allow us to name and talk about Whats, Hows and Whys in a more general way that is at least once removed from sensory experience or specific examples. This allows efficiency in thinking. For example, "chair" is a concept and exists apart from the specifics of any example of chair or any particular experience of chair.

We might break down types of (ontological) concepts into Artifact concepts (information regarding an object's function or physical properties) Natural concepts (regarding perceptual properties and definition) and Nominal concepts [naming]. This seems to relate to the distinction between natural facts and social facts.

Lakoff and Johnson (1999) trace the contemporary, mainstream definition of "concept" to Aristotle's definition of ideas as expressing essences. (The MIT Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science identifies three major approaches to studying concepts - Piagetian cognitive development, behaviorist learning model, and the representation of word meaning in lexical semantics; five broad classes of "concept" have been proposed within the lexical semantic school.) Essences are what cause things to act naturally. Distinguishing among essences is the same as identifying members of conceptual categories, giving us knowledge of "real" differences among things in terms of what they are inside and how they behave outwardly.

Alongside this Aristotilian view of concept is the classical definition of category as the list of singly necessary and jointly sufficient conditions for something to be member of a category. Such a notion of category formalizes the idea of one or more (usually several) conditions that a thing must meet to be placed in a specific category and regarded as essentially equivalent to other things placed in the same category.

Are concepts also conceptual categories? Are categories concepts? I have not found discussions of "concept" and "category" that exactly define their relationship to each other. "Concept" seems to refer to essential characteristics, while "category" groups distinct things as members of categories.

Cognitive scientists, particularly those concerned with metaphor, seem to have reached consensus, however, that categories generally do not meet the classic definition given above. Instead, what we usually find are radial categories that are defined in terms of prototypes (that have all conditions present) and other members that could be located along a radius extending outward from the prototype core. The further from the core a particular member lies, the fewer are the defining conditions that are met. A cluster of members very near the core might be prototypical members; another cluster further out may be typical or average members, etc.

Super-ordinate, basic level, and subordinate categories define conceptual categories in terms of levels of abstraction. Lakoff and Johnson (1999) give the examples of "vehicles, cars, sports cars" and "furniture, chair, recliner" where the first example is super-ordinate, the second is basic, and the third as subordinate. The middle or second level, called "basic level" is of particular importance because it is the highest level at which a general shape or image accounts for all or most all of the members of the category. (This would seem to link perception with conception such as to violate traditional theories of faculty psychology, that group mental capabilities as modular faculties, and suggest that perception and conception are actually based on the same processes, having much in common with motor control also.)

An example can be rated as to its centrality or radial distance from the center. Conceivably two particular members of the same category could have no characteristics in common, yet be "conceived" the same (e.g., a bar chair and a beanbag chair both possess "chairness"). (Also see Barsalou's work on concepts,
radial categories and frames.)

Example: Radial category of divorce (some characteristics of which are understood metaphorically)...

Metaphors have much in common with radial categories, and it can be been said that metaphors are one way that the properties of categories are projected. But the principal thing about metaphors is that they have (at least) two domains (Source and Target) and they involve mapping some or all of the characteristics of the Source Domain to the Target Domain.

Literal, non-metaphoric concepts exist in large numbers, for example, spatial relations concepts (e.g., He sat above the others). But they convey relatively weak meaning compared to when "above" might be used metaphorically (e.g., He is above the others).

In that concepts so often, as Aristotle said, have to do with essences of things, they must be understood metaphorically in most cases, because essences are not literally or directly experienced. Categories need not always involve metaphor (e.g., millions of spare parts are categorized first in terms of their part numbers, then perhaps by their size (which determines if they are stored in drawers, on shelves, etc.), which are literally understood). But the conceptual categories that people use to sort out problems and conflicts most likely are understood metaphorically.

To present metaphor to social psychologists and to conflict resolution scholars it will be helpful to show the relationship between metaphors and frames. Frames are generally accepted as important. Metaphors are not frames but some people may think they are. Frames are descriptions of roles, identities, context, situations within which the conflict exists... 
Dewolf, Gray, Putnum, Aarts, Lewicki, Bouwen, Woerkum (2005)
distinguish a cognitive (knowledge schema or structure in individual memory evoked by meta-communicative cues, telling person how to interpret the cues, giving rise to expectations about people, events, situations) from an interactional (co-developed through negotiation between people to align perspectives of a situation over time as dialog progresses) approach to framing; they say the two approaches complement each other in defining both the more micro, static, individual structures in memory with the enactment of macro communications frames negotiated dynamically. The former show frames as structures of expectation stored and represented in memory while the latter analyze discourse conversation to show how interactive negotiation affects frames. A 3x3 matrix identifies: knowledge schemas, relationship schemas, interaction schemas, issue framing, relationship framing and interaction framing.

Metaphors are descriptions of the use of a different domain to understand the conflict domain, the relationship domain, the negotiation process domain, etc. Metaphor can "lend" some organization to an evanescent collection of ideas and feelings. When is a frame metaphoric and when not? How do metaphors influence frames? Can you change one without altering the other? Of greater notice will be the frames or metaphoric frames that limit scope of attention, attract the most attention, or lead to certain kinds of action.

(New chapter on framing: Gray, Barbara (2006) Mediation as framing and framing within mediation, in Herrman, M. S. (ed) The Blackwell Handbook of Mediation: Bridging Theory, Research and Practice. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. 195-216.)


Use of bodily movement as a Source Domain follows "the embodiment hypothesis" and particularly Lakoff and Johnson's (1999) account of Primary Conceptual Metaphor. In such a metaphor, in its complete instantiation, just as bodily movement has a preliminary orientation phase, a main phase that reiterates to complete an act, and a resultant phase, so to does a metaphor map all of these phases.

This renders metaphoric understanding as not simply a summary result or static product (e.g., puzzled as a confused state) but a process with a beginning, middle and end, just as found in a behavioral act (e.g., puzzled begins by orienting to something, attempting to view it, put together pieces, etc. and an end state of not having seen how it works or being unable to fit all the pieces together). The metaphor can be said to evoke the complete process, and thereby map bodily experience onto thinking.

Metaphors of other types (e.g., common objects, cultural), I believe, also map processes in terms of such a sequence. So, even though a metaphor may be known by a single term that may sound like a category (e.g., journey) and have a list of entailments that seem like the list of attributes of a concept (e.g., itinerary, destination, detours), as a metaphor it consists of the whole process of journey (turning attention to the trip, deciding what direction to go in or what destination, selecting the means or style of transport, gathering together what is needed, moving to the first stop, overcoming obstacles, etc. and eventually arriving at the destination).

In the course of mediation (or anywhere else, for that matter) should someone talk of a problem or dispute in terms of a journey (or in terms of an entailment such as destination, etc.), potentially the entire metaphor of the journey process is evoked and available as a way to (better) understand the problem, communicate this understanding, and expand possibilities. In this way metaphor transfers meaning: It can bring in the relevant context of reasons, means, and purposes that more fully describe and explain what is happening, how and in what manner it comes about, and why.

Complexity Metaphors

Cultural Metaphors

A Few "Good" Metaphors

Range of Source Domains

Workshop Materials

















M e t a p h o r i n D i a l o g & C o n v e r s a t i o n