Bodily experience as both source and target of meaning making
Implications from metaphors in psychotherapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Bodily experiences (BE) are often theorized by cognitive linguists as sources of meaning making, encoded and projected at the levels of grammar, semantics, and discourse. For example, Conceptual Metaphor Theory regards embodied image schemas (Johnson 1987) and, more recently, live simulations of embodied experiences (Gibbs 2013) as vital to the emergence and understanding of conceptual metaphors. Interestingly however, BE also feature as targets or topics in certain discourse contexts, which leads to underexplored scenarios where BE is simultaneously a source and a target of meaning making. This paper presents examples of metaphors in psychotherapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a case in point. In psychotherapy, experientially concrete sources are often used to conceptualize abstract issues such as emotions and subjective experiences. In the case of PTSD, however, bodily experiences turn out to be both potential source concepts as well as target topics of therapeutic discussion, a phenomenon seldom discussed in cognitive linguistics. I examine psychotherapy transcripts involving victims of the 2010–12 earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, discuss how this source-target simultaneity of BE is exploited for therapeutic ends, and highlight three strands of implications pertaining to cognitive, discursive, and strategic aspects of metaphor use in psychotherapy. I conclude with a more programmatic statement about psychotherapeutic discourse as a productive site of inquiry for applied cognitive linguistics and applied metaphor research.
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