What are metaphors

In Symbolic life by veronicaLeave a Comment

Metaphor is not the same as Image. Metaphor is like talking about ideas and feelings’as-if’, in order to illustrate something you understand. Yet connecting to, and developing an Image,  is describing a complex reality, which you are yet to understand.

What is a Metaphor

Metaphor = illustration of an idea

The distinctions we make between literal and metaphorical started to evolve since the classical Greek period. Before Aristotle, scientists treated an image (the universe governed by justice, for example) as sufficient explanation of the phenomenon (that there is regularity and balance in the large scale changes of the world).  The image was not a vehicle for explanation.  It was the explanation.

Hippocratic writers, using figurative comparisons stated a theory about the body, often followed the “as” of the illustration by an emphatic “in this way,” as if the comparison proved the theory.

One Hippocratic writer explains how the body makes stones in the body by an image of “smelting.”  The image, a process similar to smelting, becomes the explanation. Its metaphorical status is not seen, or not as we perceive it.

Today however, we struggle with the opposite problem. We are completely absorbed by explanations that fit with our own explanatory powers, frequently without any knowledge of our inner processes. The result is that we find very difficult to perceive the Image – the complexity of interrelated factors.


Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh

You are perhaps somewhat aware of so-called cognitive biases, such as having a tendency to reinforce what you already think, to dismiss evidence to the contrary, or to follow the opinion of someone who dresses in a suitable manner. There are hundreds of such patterns.  But when you identify with your ideas and feelings as if they were purely yours, then, it becomes impossible to differentiate between the explanation and the image.

Scientists today will state a theory about behaviour, following an illustrative  “as a percentage of people do certain things” by an emphatic “therefore”, as if all experiences could be reduced to an objective reality. In this way your particular unhappiness or dissatisfaction is dismissed as ‘personal’, ‘as-if’ unreal.

When this happens, you can’t take a step back to perceive the image, you say that ‘is nothing but’ and devalue your own perception and experience.

Leave a Comment