Grasping at pain and holding onto words

‘Metaphors are not to be trifled with. A single metaphor can give birth to love’ 
Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
 

Another excerpt from Explain Pain Supercharged:

“Pain, especially chronic pan, is difficult to articulate and many have said it has no voice – which is perhaps why some of the most powerful descriptors of pain have come from arts, poetry and prose…

Holding onto words make sense

Patients often desperately cling to words provided by health professionals, – even throwaway lines like just a minor disc bulge. Radiology reports can be a rich source of ontological metaphor – seemingly innocuous words for a clinician such as  degeneration might be the only tangible thing for a patient to grasp onto.”

From Explain Pain Supercharged (2017) Moseley and Butler

Ontological metaphors

Metaphors such as I’m falling apart at the seams, are Ontological metaphors – they help give abstract concepts such as life, mind, love and pain an existence that you can grasp. In this case the feelings of fragility, helplessness and being out of control are given substance – are grounded – by linking them with the idea of clothing.

Take care with peoples’ metaphors – especially those associated with pain. Dismissing an ontological metaphor for an individual’s pain experience – ungrounding it – may very well pull the rug out from under them, or shake the very foundations of their being.

Listen carefully, acknowledge the metaphor, seek explanation, and enter their story. Metaphors may shape us, but they can also transform us.

 

-NOI Group

 

PS: How many metaphors can you count above? Tell us below in the comments, or share your favourite ontological metaphor.

 

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4 Responses to “Grasping at pain and holding onto words”

  1. Mel Macoun

    One of my patients had a few great metaphors for pain:

    ” I feel like I’m jelly, and if I move too much, I will crack”

    “I feel like an eagle has its’ claws in my shoulder and is trying to take off but is still holding onto my shoulder”

    Reply
    • davidbutler0noi

      Hi Mel,

      The eagle metaphor/simile is intriguing. It is so open and inviting and I am wondering what your response was.

      I am thinking initially of something like “lets work out how to free the eagle one claw at a time?

      David

      Reply
  2. Natalie J Hickenbotham

    A quotation I read, makes me think about how we share information on an MRI, or other test that just increases the fear and protection.
    If you have a fearful thought, do not share it with someone weak: Whisper it to your saddle-bow, and ride on singing.
    King Alfred of Wessex

    Reply

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