My current enquiry reveals the tensions which exist between the orthodox linguistic definitions of metaphor (Literary purists maintain that this should purely based upon written forms in order to retain the credibility of meaning (Whittock, 1990, page 2) and the visual interpretation of metaphor in terms of moving image & film semiotics. It appears that I've entered a debate being had between theorists which I need to resist; in that I don't feel that the semantic debate adds anything of value to my own discourse. I'm interested in what works on the screen, how and why it works rather than the theoretical and definitional frameworks, categorising and substantiating, cataloguing etc. "What is a metaphor" in the view of my own enquiry needs only to be interpreted as that which is pragmatic and useful to my own ends.
-As my blog has been up for a few days, it occurred to me that someone important might come along actually read it, especially someone who is a professional psychologist, psychiatrist or counsellor. Now might be a good time to publish a short rationale about what I'm doing. (I'll link to the text of my full proposal.)
As an artist, in my PhD enquiry I hope to establish a bridge between the poetic philosophy of art, design, screen-play and film; and the world of applied Psychology relating to cognitive treatments for the lower-level mental health spectrum (e.g. anxiety and depression). I have seen lots of examples of clinicians and those interested in narrative who have made impressive contributions to the understanding of story-telling in film and how these tools can be used as powerful vehicles in their own right or as an accompaniment in therapies. I think I can help.
My aim is to provide an insight from the side of the film-maker, in a way that is enlightening and useful for clinicians, especially those interested in narrative construction, art, metaphor and film semiotics. I'm hoping to publish a substantial document or book as a part of my work, and I would welcome any contributions or insights in this regard - this is very much a learning process for me. I also aim to produce an animated film which could be used as a means to further the understanding of film-making in the context of therapy or the communication of personal or social development. I'm specifically interested in authorship by survivors themselves of powerful pieces of art (or evidence, if you see it that way).
I'm also looking for funding for my PhD study if there is interest or if anyone can point me in the right direction.
A PhD can perhaps be likened to a mountain of tangled wool in a darkened warehouse; someone throws you a pair of knitting needles and a torch and suddenly you get the crazy idea of untangling the fuzzy morass and somehow to knit it into a neat rocket ship or boat. Written metaphors are powerful agents and intensifiers of magnitude, drama and emotion, Their visual counterparts are even more stimulating. The idea that rhetorical discourse is intensified by poetic and artistic synthesis or "memesis"; that is, the act of dramatized and exaggerated representation (or poetic mimicry) is an interesting philosophical avenue. My early reading leads me to the classical work of Plato, Socrates and Aristotle who seem to have concerned themselves with the idea of dramatic empathy and the imitation of reality. The classical discourse around drama, tragedy and catharsis is I think a core philosophical one, and a good lead-in into to the warehouse. Now, if you wouldn't mind holding the door for me please,.
Today's news that the US Federal Ethics Chief has resigned after a period of bitter dispute with the Trump administration (over issues of conflicts of interest as well as, frankly, the reluctance to engage at all). The societal understanding of ethics has of late been subject to attack by forces raging against so-called "political correctness". The evidence pointing to ethical back sliding is a danger to the advancements made in the social perception of mental health, itself reeling from, and only recently emerging from gross collective historical misconception skewed against sufferers. The social tolerance for mental health as an important issue is in itself a measure of the moral advancement of a society. If ethics falls by the way-side, we will see a return to the idea of "thinking troubles" as something that is weak, made-up or imaginary. We need to defend ethics with every fibre we can muster.
When I was a teenager I integrated into my survival of an alcoholic household a tendency to day-dream. The quiet places of refuge often were the car, the height of a garage loft or even a roof top from where I could suitably dislocate myself. These survival strategies shaped around either fantasy worlds or perhaps visualisation of a future self. In all of these instances a narrative mechanic was at play, either in creating a silo away from danger, or by a fierce determination that my future self would somehow become a miraculous success. It is interesting after the unfolding struggles (over decades) and resulting battle damage (and only now that the dust has begun to settle) to see that so much of my own narrative has been wrong or corrupted, My younger self could not have countenanced the possibility that this thing would reach through the years and wound the idealistic and indestructible future me. My research therefore into the thinking behind our own stories, and the plotting of critical junctures and events, often as a false (or as therapists call a "thin") story is important in understanding how faulty thinking can arise. According to theory relating to mindfulness, both the past and the future are merely narratives of either memory or a kind of future conjecture, neither of which exist in the present. The narrative of the past is the most wounding form of non-existent worrying, as this represents pre-lived (and re-lived) plot points which either are recalled in crystal clarity, or present as a hangover of our present existence often as a fearful malaise, a dull depression or terrible feeling of inadequacy, How we ultimately interpret our own stories is critical. Narrative therapy techniques call upon the author of the lived experience to re-plot new arcs which go against the accepted story in order to "thicken" the narrative. Importantly this needs to originate with utmost honesty from the source, not by some decree or clever technique. The alternative and true story needs to dawn on the author as they realise the dog they have been dragging around never was a part of them.
Film, Stories and Mental Healing; an enquiry into animation, media and therapy - A practice-based PhD Journey
I'm Paul Sinclair, a academic and practitioner with an interest in media (particularly animation) and how this is used in the spheres of visual therapeutic approaches to mental health treatment. My PhD hopefully will add further insight into the ideas around narrative, story, and the authority of authoring one's own unique experience .