This coming winter I’m teaching Psychology of Metaphor at the Institute of Imaginal Studies. In December of 2006, I was interviewing with the Director of IIS and he asked me what I wanted to teach. I found myself blurting out, “Metaphor.” But the truth was, I didn’t know anything about metaphor as an academic subject, and I’m certainly not a linguist. Spirit was speaking through me…Spirit knew that developing and teaching a class on metaphor would open up a whole new world for me. And it has done that.
We typically think of metaphors as simply being some sort of slick linguistic device, but what a metaphor does is link two unlike things together in a way where we are able to get a new perspective or understanding about the matter. When we are exploring something new or unknown, we have to use metaphorical language because it’s the only way we can describe our experience. (For example, we may describe life as a journey, or refer to a relationship as being “in over my head.”) Metaphors bring us into what I call aesthetic space or third space, where we can see deeper connections, gaining fresh wisdom from the association. Metaphors create aesthetic space and aesthetic space is necessary for human development. In short, without aesthetic space we can’t grow and evolve.
In graduate school I was fascinated by a book titled Free Spaces: The Source of Democratic Change in America. In their book, authors Sara Evans and Harry Boyte talk about how political movements are formed by having “free spaces” (voluntary associations from churches to social clubs to civic groups) where people can congregate, connect and talk with one another. When you think about it, the only way new things can come in to our lives is if we have the space to receive it. Space is actually what creates real change, don’t you think?