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Record Type: Review   ID: 386

Metaphor and Meaning in Psychotherapy

Siegelman, Ellen Y.

Psychotherapist Siegelman writes about the role of metaphor in therapy, but the message of the book, especially the last chapter, which is entitled "The Symbolic Attitude," is relevant to much broader concerns. As she points out: "Metaphor making--the imaginative act of comparing dissimilar things on the basis of some underlying principle that unites them--is one of the ways we construct a new reality" (p. ix). In a sense exceptional human experiences function metaphorically not only for the experiencer but for some who hear their stories. Rojcewicz calls them "signals of transcendence," but surely an aspect of that "signal" is its symbolic meaning, which provides a link between this realm of time and space and some other dimension. Because metaphors, when developed, can lead to unconscious sources, the use of metaphor is a potential tool of promise in revealing the meaning and symbolic source of EHEs. In this view, an EHE may be not only an end in itself, but the starting point of something new.

Chapter 1, "The Primacy of Metaphor," highlights the prevalence of metaphors and their importance. "The Bodily Matrix of Metaphor" points to the body as providing the basis for many metaphors. Siegelman distinguishes between symptoms and metaphors. In the third chapter she shows how a metaphor that seems to be conventual or casual, when attended to and allowed to expand, can be viewed as a statement of the general psychological situation of the patient. In the fourth chapter she deals with metaphors of the progress of psychotherapy--or the lack thereof. There is a chapter on the defensive use of metaphors, and she shows how metaphors can serve as analogs of psychological states. The next chapter focuses on the metaphors of the therapist as a countertransference case. She also discusses "the metaphoric base of empathy" (p. xiii). Chapter 7 is on the pitfalls involved in working with metaphors, one being to overvalue them and the other to undervalue them. A chapter is devoted to the use of metaphors to describe the therapeutic encounter in various psychotherapies. The last chapter likens the ability to formulate metaphors with the capacity to play, and Seligman suggests how the capacity can be fostered. She also explores similarities between the symbolic and aesthetic attitudes. The bibliography leads the reader to many books and articles about the meaning and use of metaphor.

Publisher Information:New York: Guilford Press, 1990. 206p. Bibl: 185-191; Index: 193-206
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