When people talk about positive and negative emotions they often use spatial metaphors. A happy person is on top of the world, but a sad person is down in the dumps. Some researchers believe these metaphors are a clue to the way people understand emotions: not only do we use spatial words to talk about emotional states, we also use spatial concepts to think about them. ~ fromTo Remember the Good Times, Reach for the Sky; SCIENCE DAILY.
The weather here in South Carolina has been lovely and unseasonably warm the past few weeks. Thursday was beautiful and sunny – the perfect day for a ride in a convertible with the top down. So, I dropped the top and spent the day enjoying the convertible weather.
I ran some errands and stopped by for quick visits with a few friends. My mood jumped from blah to beautiful in just a few hours. After all, how could I stay gloomy on such a gorgeous day? I felt on top of the world when I came home. My day was looking up!
The spatial metaphors, highlighted in bold above, had little meaning to me beyond the job of descriptors until this morning. That’s when I came across this March, 2010 article at Science Daily thanks to Barking Up The Wrong Tree.
The article explains the results of a 2010 study which demonstrates the connection between spatial directions and information as related to mood states.
The study used a simple “move the marble” activity while asking memory and mood related questions. (Read the article here.) The test results led to some interesting and unexpected findings:
When prompted to tell positive memories, participants began recounting their experiences faster during upward movements, but when prompted to tell negative memories they responded faster during downward movements. Memory retrieval was most efficient when participants’ motions matched the spatial directions that metaphors in language associate with positive and negative emotions./ ….. / …These data suggest that spatial metaphors for emotion aren’t just in language,” Casasanto says, “linguistic metaphors correspond to mental metaphors, and activating the mental metaphor ‘good is up’ can cause us to think happier thoughts.”1
The simple and amazing statement by Casasanto that “linguistic metaphors correspond to mental metaphors” is a refreshing hypothesis about the relationship between the physical and mental realms of life and their interaction and interconnectivity in the individual person.
Too often, our experiences-moods-emotions are relegated to a “back seat” in life. We are expected to keep these emotional aspects of ourselves in a box, pulling out the correct emotional responses at the right time – don’t cry when a boss demeans you, do cry when a loved one dies. The emotional side of our being is treated as a negative, not a positive.
The research cited above breaks down this emotional “safe box” mentality and shows that emotions, language, and our spatial (“real”) experiences are all interconnected. It is not (has never been) as simple as turning those elements on and off on queue. We are complex, multifaceted creatures. We work, perform, and live best when all aspects of our being are integrated and coordinated with each other.
This holistic, all-encompassing view of the Human Being as a complex organism of integrated and interrelated mechanisms is a healthy one. This study, and other research like it, confirms the truth of a complete and healthy life over a compartmentalized, disconnected and stifled existence. It also gives us new techniques and concepts for looking up and bringing our moods, emotions, and journeys into the light, into that place of cohesive joy when we feel on top of the world. ~
Artwork courtesy of and Copyright by Angie McKenzie. Angie creates some of the loveliest nature art I’ve ever seen, gorgeous and surreal. Please visit her at her Fine Art America pages here. You can purchase prints of various sizes and note-cards, etc. at Fine Art America. Or, visit Angie’s website here.