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Sharpe, E.F. (1940). Psycho-Physical Problems Revealed in Language: An Examination of Metaphor. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 21:201-213.

(1940). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 21:201-213

Psycho-Physical Problems Revealed in Language: An Examination of Metaphor

Ella Freeman Sharpe

I propose to deal in this paper with one aspect of psycho-analytical treatment, namely, the value of understanding the metaphorical language used by articulate patients. Words both reveal and conceal thought and emotion. In psycho-analytical treatment our task is often that of getting through barrages of words to the sense experience and the associated thoughts. But words too can reveal the union of these and we are greatly helped if we believe this and can recognize the revealing phrase. Metaphor fuses sense experience and thought in language. The artist fuses them in a material medium or in sounds with or without words. The principle is metaphor.

Metaphor has been a subject of debate and investigation from Aristotle to our own time. One of the latest exponents expresses himself thus: 'The investigation of metaphor is curiously like the investigation of any of the primary data of consciousness; it cannot be pursued very far without our being led to the borderline of sanity. Metaphor is as ultimate as speech itself, and speech as ultimate as thought.'

One explanation of metaphor has been that it reveals the divine in man and that his spiritual qualities and aspirations find expression in language that has a concrete significance. For example, 'My spirit flew in feathers then' is according to this view witness to the soaring aspiration of the soul which is forced in language to the mundane illustration of a feathered bird in order to illustrate a quality of the spirit.

Psycho-analytical research however endorses the views of those who from the definition of metaphor as 'a transference of a word to a sense different from its signification' maintain that the displacement is from physical to psychical and not vice versâ. 'No word', says Grindon, 'is metaphysical without its having first been physical.' Locke said: 'We have no ideas at all, but what originally came either

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1 John Middleton Murry, Countries of the Mind.

2 Aristotle, Poetics.

3 L. H. Grindon, Figurative Language: its Origin and Constitution.

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