Forced Metaphors

I love metaphors, and I’m not the only one.

Study after study has suggested that humans like these linguistic and sometimes literal devices to help us understand more complex theories.

One of the most well known metaphors seeking to explain one of life’s greatest mysteries, life itself, was provided by Forrest Gump’s mama who “always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

That metaphor is up for debate itself, and many philosophers and psychologists prefer to use the metaphor that life is a stage.  I thought that was Elvis Presley, but what do I know?

It was Bill Shakespeare who got the ball rolling in his speech, the Seven Ages of Man when he said, “all of life is a stage” on which we play seven roles.  The baton was taken up by psychologist Erik Erikson who actually said that there were 8 stages.

The problem with the stage metaphor is that can be too tightly bound and restrictive to such a diverse human population.  Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin, in their book called “The Longevity Project“, provided the idea of roads or pathways which aren’t bound to the passing of time but cover various periods that most people go through in their life – “The High Road” and “Catastrophe Lane” for example.

Turning an idea or emotion in to something more tangible, though, has actually been researched as examples of the way abstract psychological states overlap with physical experience.  Think, for example, of bottling up your anger.

Psychological scientist Xiuping Li and his colleagues at the National University of Singapore conducted two very similar experiments.  They asked a group of people to write about a regrettable decision, and a group of volunteers to write about a dream that had not come true.  Half of the volunteers sealed their regret or dream in an envelope, while the other half did not.

When surveyed afterwards, the group who handed in their writing in the envelope had fewer negative emotions afterward with their problem sealed away.

Several control experiments were undertaken to prove the findings, and they were conclusive.  Further, the scientists found that containing the emotion in an envelope actually helped the person to forget details of the problem.

Chen-Bo Zhong and Geoff Leonardelli of the University of Toronto conducted two experiments that took the tangible element of the metaphor even further by proving the social exclusion can make someone feel physically, literally, cold.

In the past I’ve written about The Slippery Slope Of The Metaphor and how they can over simplify, which makes them dangerous in some aspects.  They can ground a set of emotions or feelings but then help us lose sight of important details – the rock may stop the balloon from blowing away, until the wind gets strong enough to take them both.

As a result, I think it’s quite easy to force a metaphor to suit our needs.

I think that it’s also possible to see something fairly normal and regular and make a metaphor out of it and, when approached with an open mind, it can get us thinking about things.  Therefore, I am going to introduce a new series to this blog called “The Forced Metaphor” (I’ll put it in the menu and everything) where I see things that are particularly uninteresting but may well reflect a certain element of our lives if you over think them!  I’m not going to say that they are an expert analysis by any stretch, but hopefully they’ll serve as a thinking piece.

After all, while some metaphors have literal meaning, others should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Are you lonesome tonight,
do you miss me tonight?
Are you sorry we drifted apart?
Does your memory stray to a brighter sunny day
When I kissed you and called you sweetheart?
Do the chairs in your parlor seem empty and bare?
Do you gaze at your doorstep and picture me there?
Is your heart filled with pain, shall I come back again?
Tell me dear, are you lonesome tonight?

I wonder if you’re lonesome tonight
You know someone said that the world’s a stage
And each must play a part.
Fate had me playing in love you as my sweet heart.
Act one was when we met, I loved you at first glance
You read your line so cleverly and never missed a cue
Then came act two, you seemed to change and you acted strange
And why I’ll never know.
Honey, you lied when you said you loved me
And I had no cause to doubt you.
But I’d rather go on hearing your lies
Than go on living without you.
Now the stage is bare and I’m standing there
With emptiness all around
And if you won’t come back to me
Then make them bring the curtain down.

Is your heart filled with pain, shall I come back again?
Tell me dear, are you lonesome tonight?

Are You Lonesome Tonight by Elvis Presley

Comments 1

Leave A Comment?