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Working with the metaphor of life and death
  1. Phil Barker
  1. University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne


    The experience of being human is intangible. As a result, descriptions of human experience rely heavily on metaphor to convey something of that whole lived experience. By contrast, contemporary scientific narratives of the mind emphasise the form of human thought and emotion, over the content of people's experience, where constructive attempts are made to explain the experience of self, through metaphorical allusion. This paper considers the importance of metaphor as a vehicle for expressing and exploring selfhood. Examples from the psychiatric literature, as well as from the visual and literary arts, are used to reflect on the importance of metaphor in clarifying the meanings of the constructs of health and illness.

    • Metaphor
    • phenomenology
    • ontology
    • mental health

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    • Phil Barker is Professor of Psychiatric Nursing Practice, Department of Psychiatric Nursing Practice, School of Psychiatry, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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      BMJ Publishing Group Ltd and Institute of Medical Ethics