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Use of bodily movement as a Source Domain follows "the embodiment hypotheses" and particularly Lakoff and Johnson's (1999) account of Primary Conceptual Metaphor. This sharpens our focus onto metaphors of common bodily movement patterns, movement in space and with constraints (including obstacles and gravity), and handling or manipulating objects. The rules, prescriptions and prohibitions are those of our own bodies. Ordinary language is full of allusion to these patterns.

To help unpack concentrated forms of expression and provide a tentative map of possibilities, the Source Domain of bodily movement and object manipulation is here shown in terms of seven clusters of metaphors. The clusters interrelate in terms of actual physical connections between associated areas of the body, conflated experience, coordination required between the areas, and "coupled" or "parasitic" movements that develop given the nature of the human body and its ordinary functions or activities.

These clusters were originally inspired by themes and groupings in Carlton (1995) and Lakoff and Johnson (1999). They are presented without any claim to empirical validity nor completeness, but they cover a wide and useful range. The clusters are highly interrelated -- a veritable web of associated metaphors -- but the various clusters offer valuable differentiation as well. The exercises that follow show how the seven clusters help clarify and extend metaphors:

Locating/Containing - Being in places, states and spaces

Structuring - Dividing parts and whole, fitting, connecting, orientating

Handling/Manipulating - Receiving, sending, shaping, sizing

Moving/Locomotion - Moving on a path, causing, images passing, sequencing

Balancing - Distributing, centering, leaning, oscillating

Seeing - Tracking, lighting, focusing, distancing

Procreating - Germinating, giving birth

It is not necessary to use my clusters. Anyone can refer to the human body and begin to map the variety of ways that it moves in its environment. From that, one can weave one's own web of differentiated yet interrelated bodily movement metaphors.



How well can you handle the pressure of back and forth discussion when someone drops a hint or slips in a comment that is so unbalanced or twisted, or a slap in the face, or a move to get out in front, that you lose track of the role you took on, and are simply inclined to pull the rug right out from under that person?

The Source Domain


Bodily Movement - Object Manipulation Metaphors

The next distinction to make, as you bring the operation of metaphor more into your conscious awareness, is to notice which metaphors use bodily movement or object manipulation as the Source Domain. Here we sharpen our focus onto metaphors of common bodily movement patterns, movement in space and with constraints (such as obstacles and gravity), and handling or manipulating objects. Ordinary language is full of allusion to these movement patterns, usually employed in figurative, not literal, senses. These patterns are almost universally experienced, and are extraordinarily rich metaphor sources.

Recall that the "Source" of a metaphor is the domain you know a lot about, understanding of which will be transferred to the "Target", or the domain you know less about. Accumulation of knowledge about bodily movement begins before birth, becomes integrated with language, and develops in increasing complexity, variety and across levels of abstraction.

Because bodily movement is the Source of the metaphor, clients have access to the full range of its logic and can apply it to the Target domain of interest. Bodily movement has built-in logic that can be generalized and transferred to a Target Domain. Humans know a lot about the movement of their bodies - their arms, legs, their hands, and their body as a whole, moving in space. This makes it an excellent Source Domain.

For example,
A hand can move in certain ways and not in others, the fingers can work together or independently, certain sequences are well learned, such as grasping and releasing, pushing and pulling, opening and closing.
Orientations such as above, below, behind, in front of, being inside or outside - are all learned through bodily experience.
Movement of our own bodies through space, from one location to another, slowly or fast, loaded down and fatigued versus light and energetic - all of this is articulated in our experience.

The use of metaphors based on bodily movement is easily learned and understood by almost anyone except those with severe physical disability from an early age.

Some metaphors are meaningful primarily to those people with a certain common cultural experience. But others - the ones focused on here, called Primary Conceptual Metaphors - promise greater universality because they are based on bodily experience and spatial relations.


Additional Clusters

Sleep and Dreams

Hearing (and other of 5 senses)








1. Noticing Which Metaphors use Bodily Movement

The next distinction to make (in furthering our goal of bringing the operation of metaphor more into conscious awareness) is to notice which metaphors use bodily movement or object manipulation as the Source Domain. For example,

we arrived at a decision;
he is a skunk;
she dumped him for another man;
his enthusiasm was infectious.

In English particularly, and especially when verbs are converted to nouns or the passive voice is used, action of all kinds is then expressed in very compact form. This can make it more difficult to understand who or what is the actor, what is acted upon and how. For example,

confusion reigned;
he over generalized from partial information;
she was inclined to agree; any additional comments?

2. Practicing the Experiential Shift Between Source and Target

A description of a problem or conflict most often is intended to be understood literally -- that is, solely in terms of the Target Domain. When figurative, incongruent or strange words or phrases are included in that description, a Source Domain is introduced usually without conscious awareness on the part of the speaker or listener. Even though unconscious, such a Source Domain can contain valuable information that transfers to the Target and qualifies, extends or explains the Target more fully. The following exercises allow practice in conscious shifting between Target and Source Domains to illustrate this:

a. Take one of the above (e.g., Just when I was getting to the point, he cut me off). Note the words that are figurative or incongruent. Imagine a frame or context in which these words would be entirely literal and congruent (e.g., sailboat racing, power cut, lost telehone connection). This would be a Source Domain. As one sailboat is about to reach a point of land sticking out from the shore, another competitive sailboat cuts across his bow, forcing him to turn abruptly, lose wind, slow down, and fall behind. From this Source Domain several factors appear that operated only unconsciously in the Target Domain. For example, the "point" was easily seen by all, it might be an important turning point, competition is active, once cut off a person loses momentum, propulsion, and speed.

b. Another example: "I had questions about what she projected to spend on food." A frame or domain where the understanding of the focus word "projected" might be entirely literal and congruent would be where an image is projected on a screen or a speaker's voice is projected to fill the hall. As you consider such Source Domains, you may notice that something in a small format is expanded outward to fill a larger one, or something in one place now is made to be in another place. Consider what you know about "projected" in such a Source Domain (e.g., how the thing being projected is at first prepared, how the projection depends upon the original thing, etc.). Now apply it to the original Target quotaton (the basis for the projected expenditure, the dependence of the projection upon the original, etc.). Move back and forth between the Target and the Source and, each time you shift, note how your experience is affected.

3. Additional Exercises in Conscious Awareness

Here is one type of exercise to illustrate and practice clarifying, communicating and extending operating metaphors. By "extending" we mean including additional aspects of the same metaphor or other metaphor clusters related naturally to those that are initially operating. (They all are related because they work together in the normal course of bodily movement and almost always have a corresponding function in whatever the Target Domain may be.) These natural extensions in the Source Domain can increase options in the Target Domain.

Case Example: Father depends on Mother to care for their children and to contribute support. He wants Mother to have a life insurance policy with a large death benefit. He says it will make him feel more comfortable to know that, if she dies, he will be able to afford the help he will need to care for their children. She is opposed to this saying that would make her more valuable dead than alive.

Take Father’s operating metaphor first, hypothesizing that he is in an emotional state of mind; go to the Locating/Containing cluster. This cluster helps us hypothesize metaphorically that an emotional state is a location in space. It is understood metaphorically as a distinct place that may be enclosed and hard to move from, but may be a known distance from other places (states).

Form questions to be asked of the disputant to test and refine hypotheses; our goal now is to experience this metaphor in terms of the Source Domain only (not referring back to the Target Domain for the purposes of this exercise), so form questions using Source Domain terminology only. Questions that come to mind are, “What can you see from there? And, “While in that place are you moving (towards what? falling, sliding?) or stationary?”

Express the operating metaphor using Source terminology. An additional experiential component would be to tell a story using Source Domain language; while doing so you may link to other clusters that seem relevant. For example, “This father knows he is in a uncomfortable place; what is the place actually like (metaphorically)? What moves is he making to get out of it? He could jump, call for help, grasp onto something.” From the metaphor cluster in which the operating metaphor has been found, note other related or relevant metaphoric understandings and links to other clusters. Going to another cluster (e.g., Balancing) may suggest other questions, such as “Do you feel off balance?”, “What is needed to get your feet under you?”

Form hypotheses about extending the operating metaphor; reiterate as needed (ask questions, listen to the other person’s answers, further extend whatever metaphor you hear being expressed).

4. Exercises in Practical Application

The following exercises begin to integrate all of the previous distinctions and illustrate how they can be applied in working with mediation clients or disputants. This means learning how to move easily back and forth between Target and Source Domains. Note that the integration covers not only how the previous distinctions work together, but also how they relate to the three highly valued principals of the mediation process - careful listening, questions that promote communications, and expanding options. Here are the steps of this exercise:

Decide which disputant’s metaphor to focus on first.

Listen for and identify the language, movement or action in the Target Domain that may indicate a metaphor.
The Mom spoke about her life since she and her husband separated. Her life was at home with the children. She took each day is it came. It was hard to see what the future would be like.

Use the Bodily Movement metaphor clusters to hypothesize about one or more operating metaphors.

Form questions to be asked of the disputant to test and refine hypotheses.

Express and communicate the operating metaphor:

Transfer metaphor patterns, logic and intelligence to the Target.

From the metaphor cluster in which the operating metaphor has been found, note other related or relevant metaphoric understandings and links to other clusters.

Form hypotheses about extending the operating metaphor; reiterate these steps as needed.

Here is another example to which the same steps can be applied: The Father said they had been separated for two years and it was time to get the divorce settled and get on with their lives.

5. (another example) I need to write a paper, and the more time that passes, the more pressured I feel. I think first that I should just work like hell and get a lot done, so that I will feel less pressured. But the intense work adds to the pressure I feel. So then I think I should work a little harder to get more done, but not so much as to increase the pressure too much. This is an example of thinking mostly within the "Moving/Locomotion" cluster of metaphors, particular Speed and Ease.

a. A Story Set in the Source Domain: Put aside the Target Domain and think as much as possible only in the Source Domain. Something is pushing you on all sides making you feel squeezed, constrained... (whatever "pressured" feels like). Things are passing by, and the more this occurs the more pressured you feel, like you are being taken to a place you don't like. You want relief. What do you do? Maybe you struggle to crawl, walk or run away from the place you don't like. But you find that this, while reducing the threat of going to the place you don't like, doesn't relieve the pressured feeling -- in fact it seems to make it worse. How can you move yourself to improve this situation? Look at other sub-clusters, such as Path -- various steps towards a destination.

b. Switch Metaphor Clusters: In the Movement/Locomotion cluster, note the link to the Structure cluster. Continue the Source Domain story in another cluster.

c. Transfer to Target Domain:

[Under development:

[DBM tools may actually seem to alter Source by bringing attention to other parts of Source experience, including shift from remedial to generative aspects, through time from in time, safety to development, position to effect, etc.]

[Noting How Shifting Domains Changes Distance Between Subject, Object and Action by Focusing on Process, putting Result or Product in Broader Perspective:

distinguish product from process and from working the process
follow logic in abstract without affecting real people or things
inspect how dynamics are different in differant contexts
can move "I", "me" from central or close-up; substitute other entities
a model, where "what if" is easier
easier to separate phases of a process, imagine alternatives
unpack terms, expand time, change distances or angles



Source Domain

The logic, meaning and understanding of the Source Domain is made available through metaphor. The Metaphor is "apt" to the degree that it has corresponding elements and relationships. Once this Source Domain is available, transfer occurs back to the Target Domain.

Target Domain

The Target Domain is what is being focused on now. What is of concern is within this domain - the situation you face now.