Using Metaphor as a Sixth Sense

Embodied metaphor

While we are accustomed to using our five senses to explore the world outside ourselves, it's not as clear what senses we marshall to scan interior landscapes.


I use the term "sense-metaphor" to identify a metaphor engaged and functioning as an instrument of perception. Like sight, sound, touch, taste and smell, metaphor can be deployed as an active, sensory agent, and this is what metaphor-mirroring does. It uses metaphor to "sense" feelings.


Metaphor can access direct, unfiltered, pre-verbal perception of emotion-states. In the moment of matching a sense-metaphor to a feeling in order to identify it, our introspection becomes present-moment, sensory experience of that feeling.

Intrinsic empathy

As an instrument of emotion-description, metaphor is powerful and empathically compelling. The qualities of metaphor as an introspective tool make empathy "intrinsic" to the activity of metaphorically processing affect. 


As we listen, a speaker's metaphor resonates within us to the degree that the metaphor has matched its target. This resonance is partly rational, but mostly sensory. When you describe your feelings metaphorically, I "get" what you're saying in a way that is intuitive and gut-level, "felt" as opposed to understood cognitively. 

Resonance and transcription

The skillfully deployed sense-metaphor lets us feel that an emerging, metaphoric match is right, that it has captured the pre-verbal, emotional sensation we are exploring. An emotion-matching metaphor, upon discovery in the mind of its poet, embodies the emotional sensation that he or she is attempting to identify and verbalize. 


As it emerges, the sense-metaphor "match" produces a profound quality of recognition. The metaphoric image is the intuitive reflection of the emotion-state we put under its lens. Metaphoric Affect Processing allows the transcription of that mind-state in the form of a poem, or "metaphor mirror". 


Metaphor-mirroring produces language easily recorded in written, invitingly poetic format that accurately and implicitly externalizes - and is capable of reproducing in the poet, scribe and other listeners - the feelings being explored.