As I mentioned recently, the habit of thinking in metaphor is so central to our everyday experience that we barely notice it. But the metaphors we use in our thinking have a huge impact on how we live our lives.
Our metaphors influence our actions
Do you think of life a constant battle? Are you constantly struggling to stay on top? If so, it’s likely you’ll behave very differently from someone who thinks that life is just a game: it’s great fun to win, but it’s also fun to play.
As well as influencing us our actions on a ‘macro’ scale, helping to decide how we live our lives, the metaphors in our thinking affect our actions at all kinds of levels. For example, for you, the internet is like… what? And what difference does that make to how you respond to this post? (Feel free to comment below!)
Our metaphors influence other people
The metaphors we use in our thinking spill out unconsciously in our language (and also in our body language).
They’re infectious – it’s likely you’ll share metaphors with members of your family; with your friends; with your colleagues; with people in your culture.
For example, while most people in the west tend to think of the past as behind them and the future in front, some specific groups have time organised the other way, with the past in front of them. Imagine what that does to their behaviour!
I’ve been reading Connected, The Amazing Power of Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, which spells out the impact of the people around us on our behaviour. Our friends and friends-of-friends can make us fat, or make us happier, for example.
It seems likely that the metaphors we use in our thinking, and which spill out in our language, form one of the most important ways in which “transmission” of ideas – and of corresponding behaviour – takes place.
And what’s most exciting about that is that with a small amount of training and practice, we can learn to notice (and potentially to change) those metaphoric vectors. I wonder what happens next?