Making gold of our lives: the role of metaphor in describing the experience of change at midlife
Horton, Scott Landham
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In a qualitative case study, new or returning midlife university students were interviewed and asked to discuss the changes they were undergoing, change being indicated by their attending school at this point in their lives. Five resulting portraits (Lawrence-Lightfoot and Davis, 1997) were created, based on and organized around the metaphors the respondents were asked to provide that described their experience of making midlife changes. The metaphors invoked were: a journey home, a personal rebellion against colonization, collection and accumulation, stage productions, and alchemy and metamorphosis. The portraits indicate that the participants' metaphoric conceptions, called deep, key, or root metaphors, are deeply imbedded in their lives, past and current, and as such identify life themes. The metaphors also dramatically illustrate that a supposedly common activity may not be common at all. Further, given the richness of the metaphor use, the study demonstrates the desirability of listening carefully to and even expressly soliciting metaphoric usage, if we are to more fully understand people's inner realities. Finally, the portraits indicate that even from within widely divergent metaphoric conceptualizations, the respondents all find midlife to be an active, positive, and hopeful period of life. In contrast to popular portrayal and lingering developmental attitudes, for them midlife is decidedly neither crisis nor dull plateau.
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