Metaphors we live by

In the book ‘Metaphors we live by’ Lakoff and Johnson propose that metaphors are more than just “poetic imagination” or “rhetorical flourish”, but form the very basis by which we perceive our world.

They propose that our conceptual system, the very way that we perceive our world, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature, and that if we become aware of the metaphors of our conceptual system we can change our perception and change our vantage point.

Our ordinary language is littered with conceptual metaphors.

What do I mean?

Here is a conceptual metaphor: Time is Money.

We hear how this metaphor plays out in our language:

I don’t have time to give you.
How do you spend you time these days?
I’ve invested a lot of time in her.
I am running out of time.

How would our perception change if our conceptual metaphor for Time changed to: Time is Liquid?

I have to freeze my time for now.
I have a small reserve of time for you.
Time is flowing quickly today!
The day just evaporated.

All feels a bit different? Interesting.

In Pete’s post ‘Change your vantage point’ we are encourage to get an external change of perspective; in this post I am encouraging an internal change of perspective.

Have a bit of fun with conceptual metaphors today and start to notice how they shape your perception.

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3 Comments on “Metaphors we live by”

  1. Peter Ward says:

    Pete, as a coach I have to be very aware of the perspective of my clients in terms of the way they are visual, auditory or phyiscal.

    I had to keep checking myself in that last sentence because I wanted to say “…I have to be very aware of the view of my clients in the way they see themselves as…”, so you know my perspective from that. Others will talk about things, or feel things, while I — as you can see — view things.

    I think these are fundamentally different ways of seeing the world. Metaphors, if you like. There’s no point in saying to an auditory person “do you see that?”. They need to hear something more like “how does that sound?”.

    Human perception is fascinating. I’m sure that changing metaphors is one way of waking people out of autopilot and getting them to think differently!

    • Dave Evans says:

      Peter, thanks for your comment. This is such an important part of human communication, sensing another’s perspective and being able to ‘step into their shoes and experience it.’ Noticing how someone metaphorically codes their experience, through auditory, visual or physical metaphors is good fun and enlightening at the same time!


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