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The spatial contours of wellbeing: A content analysis of metaphor in academic discourse

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In thinking and talking about wellbeing, people often deploy spatial metaphors, such as identifying positive and negative affect with “up” and “down” respectively. However, there has not yet been a systematic investigation of how wellbeing is represented through metaphor. To shed light on this topic, a content analysis was conducted of spatial metaphors in academic discourse on wellbeing, focusing on recent editions of two leading journals, the Journal of Positive Psychology, and the British Journal of Clinical Psychology. Across 28 papers, 54 spatial metaphors were identified, grouped into four main categories: verticality; horizontality; configuration; and dynamism. Above all, wellbeing is associated with interior expansiveness, with positive valence usually attaching to vertical metaphors of height and depth, horizontal metaphors of width and breadth, and configuration metaphors of size and growth. The analysis thus offers valuable insights into the subjective dynamics of wellbeing.
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Running head: SPATIAL CONTOURS OF WELLBEING
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The spatial contours of wellbeing:
A content analysis of metaphor in academic discourse
The Journal of Positive Psychology
Note: This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It
is not the copy of record.
Tim Lomas
University of East London, School of Psychology, Water Lane, London, E15 4LZ
Contact: t.lomas@uel.ac.uk
Running head: SPATIAL CONTOURS OF WELLBEING
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Abstract
In thinking and talking about wellbeing, people often deploy spatial metaphors, such as
identifying positive and negative affect with “up” and “down” respectively. However, there
has not yet been a systematic investigation of how wellbeing is represented through
metaphor. To shed light on this topic, a content analysis was conducted of spatial metaphors
in academic discourse on wellbeing, focusing on recent editions of two leading journals, the
Journal of Positive Psychology, and the British Journal of Clinical Psychology. Across 28
papers, 54 spatial metaphors were identified, grouped into four main categories: verticality;
horizontality; configuration; and dynamism. Above all, wellbeing is associated with interior
expansiveness, with positive valence usually attaching to vertical metaphors of height and
depth, horizontal metaphors of width and breadth, and configuration metaphors of size and
growth. The analysis thus offers valuable insights into the subjective dynamics of wellbeing.
Keywords: wellbeing; discourse; language; metaphor
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This article explores the way in which subjective experiences of wellbeing are conceptualised
using metaphor. To that end, it is important to begin by setting out an account of subjectivity
itself, in order to frame the subsequent discussion.
Experiential Worlds
In its attempt to understand the character of human existence, Western philosophy has
frequently alighted on a binary ontological schema (Searle, 1995). This involves the
identification of two “worlds.” Firstly, our inner, ontologically-subjective world of qualia,
which we’ll call world 1 (W1). Second, the outer, ontologically-objective world of material
entities including the physical bodies of human beings which we’ll call world 2 (W2).
There are exceptions to this dominant dualism: monistic traditions of idealism and
materialism assert the primacy, and even exclusivity, of W1 and W2 respectively. However,
many thinkers uphold some form of ontological dualism, even if there continue to be sharp
debates around the nature of the interaction between these worlds (Chalmers, 1997).
More recently though, the philosopher Karl Popper (1980) argued that it might be
helpful to identify three distinct worlds (even if these worlds overlap and intersect). In
addition to the inner and outer worlds of conventional dualism, Popper added a third: the
conceptual world of abstract thought, and its products, which we’ll call world 3 (W3). In
Popper’s words, this is the “world of the products of the human mind, such as languages;
tales and stories and religious myths; scientific conjectures or theories, and mathematical
constructions; songs and symphonies; paintings and sculptures” (p.144). The ontological
nature of W3 and its products has been much debated even if the terminology of a distinct
“world” has not been used – particularly in fields like mathematics, where the existential
status of mathematical entities is a perennial discussion point (Shapiro, 2000). It is beyond
the scope of this paper to delve into such debates. Suffice it to say that many theorists argue
that while conceptual thought does depend upon both W1 and W2 in that thought consists
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of a subjective mental experience (W1), and also resides in the physical architecture of the
brain, and in externalising devices such as writing (W2) it is not reducible to these worlds.
A crucial point to make about these worlds is that they intersect, and in some ways
overlap. The intersection between W1 and W2 has been explored by paradigms such as the
neural correlates of consciousness” approach, a contemporary way of engaging with the
perennial “mind-body” problem. For example, Fell’s (2004) neuropsychological “state-
space” model invites us to view W1 (subjective mind) and W2 (in this instance, brain
activity) as each being a state-space of n dimensions (i.e., comprising any number potential of
dimensions). Thus, the n-dimensional state-space of the mind is conceptualised as
encompassing every possible subjective experience, with a given mental state occupying a
“location” within this space. A feeling of pleasure, for instance, would be constituted from a
specific configuration of dimensions like valence (how positive the feeling is), intensity (how
powerful), duration (how long-lasting), frequency (how often it is experienced), etc. Fell’s
theory then holds that this mental state will correlate with an analogous configuration of
dimensions in the n-dimensional neurophysiological state-space of the brain, in which the
dimensions pertain instead to factors such as neurotransmitter levels and activation of neural
populations. The model also accounts for how W2 is registered and experienced by the
person (e.g., the way light-waves enter the eyes and are processed into a visual experience in
the brain).
Likewise, W1 and W2 both intersect with W3 in complex ways. First, in an
ontological sense, W3 could be regarded as “supervening” upon both W1 and W2. That is, as
alluded to above, conceptual thought resides, or is instantiated, in the patterns of the mind
(W1), and in the neurophysiological architecture of the brain and in externalising devices
such as writing (W2), just as W1 itself also supervenes upon W2 (Kim, 1993). Second, in a
substantive and epistemological sense, much of the “contents” of W3 pertain to worlds 1 and
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2. That is, many of the “products” of W3 – from scientific theories to religious narratives
are “about” phenomena situated in W1 (e.g., subjective experiences) and W2 (e.g., objects
and events in the world). To put it another way, a large part of W3 consists in the “mapping”
of W1 and W2. However, such mapping is an interactive and reciprocal affair. Thus, the third
point of intersection between the worlds concerns the way in which W1 and W2 influence the
structure and contents of W3, as our next section considers.
Influences upon Conceptual Thought
Over the past 40 years, scholars have increasingly come to view W3 the realm of concepts,
schemas, frameworks, ideologies, narratives, and so on as being shaped by entities and
processes in W1 and W2. Arguably the foremost theorists in this arena are George Lakoff and
Mark Johnson, whose ground-breaking book Metaphors We Live By (1980b) has over 50,000
citations as of January 2018. Although Lakoff and Johnson do not use Popper’s (1980) three
world schematic, their theorising can certainly be viewed through that prism, as we shall do
here. Specifically, they articulate a position that Lakoff (2008) has described as one of
experiential realism, or experientialism. From this perspective, “thought is embodied,”
whereby our conceptual systems “grow out of bodily experience… [being] directly grounded
in perception, body movement, and experience of a physical and social character” (p.xiv). In
terms of Popper’s schematic, “thought” corresponds to W3, while “bodily experience”
encompasses both W1 and W2. That is, bodily experience includes both the way our body
interacts with the world around (W2), and our subjective registering of that interaction (W1).
Lakoff suggests that this experientialist perspective is relatively recent: prior to the 20th
century, theories of knowledge tended to be characterised by a stance of “objectivism.” This
holds that “rational thought consists of the manipulation of abstract symbols and that these
symbols get their meaning via correspondence with the world [i.e., W1 and W2], objectively
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construed” (p.6). However, the past few decades have seen a growing interest in Lakoff and
Johnson’s (1980b) experientialist stance.
At its core, their basic thesis is that the “human conceptual system [i.e., W3] is …
fundamentally metaphorical in character” (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980a, p.195). That said, it
also contains non-metaphorical concepts, which emerge directly out of our embodied
experience i.e., out of W1 and W2 and are defined in their own terms. Lakoff and
Johnson identify three main forms of non-metaphorical concepts: (a) spatial orientations (e.g.,
up-down, in-out, near-far); (b) ontological concepts arising in physical experience (e.g.,
person, entity, substance, container); and (c) structured experiences and activities (e.g.,
eating, moving, transferring objects from place to place). Crucially, these non-metaphorical
concepts then provide the basis for an extremely rich and complex system of metaphorical
concepts. Such concepts also take three main forms each drawing primarily on one of the
non-metaphorical forms namely: (a) orientational metaphors; (b) ontological metaphors;
and (c) structural metaphors. Thus, with orientational metaphors, people can think in the
abstract about phenomena rising or falling, for instance. These include items and processes
ranging from income (“his salary fell last year”) to happiness (“levels of happiness are
rising”). People can also situate phenomena relative to each other spatially in ways which
confer significance (“I’m on top of the situation,” “she has power over me”). With
ontological metaphors, this involves conferring entity or substance status onto phenomena.
For instance, the container concept is commonly used to describe the mind (“full of
thoughts”, “empty-headed”), and thoughts themselves (“a hollow sentiment”), while the
entity concept is often used for ideas (“she gave me a good idea”). Finally, with structural
metaphors, relatively abstract types of activity (e.g., understanding) are frequently configured
in terms of more concrete activities (e.g., perception), leading to statements such as “I see
what you mean,” and the invoking of notions such as “my perspective” or “my view.”
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Thus, it is suggested that people’s sensorimotor experiences of being in the world
generate various non-metaphorical concepts (e.g., spatial orientations), which then become
the conceptual tools by which people understand more abstract experiences and ideas. A key
point of the theory is that metaphors can only signify a concept by virtue of their experiential
basis. Such bases can be rich and complex, which prevents any given metaphor having a
reductive or simplistic one-size-fits-all meaning or significance. By way of example, Lakoff
and Johnson (1980a) discuss how different forms of the spatial “up-down” metaphor have
different experiential bases, which influences their meaning. For instance, the association of
“up” with “more” (e.g., in relation to a salary) is theorised as deriving from seeing the level
of a substance (e.g., liquid) rise when we add more of it. Conversely, the association of “up”
with “control” (e.g., to have the “upper hand”) may relate to experiences of physical
dominance, such as a more powerful agent (a parent, say) standing over a less powerful one
(a child). Or again, its association with happiness, and “down” with sadness, is speculated as
originating in the way that positive mental states are associated with an upright, energised
posture, and negative mental states with lethargy. By contrast, whereas “up” signifies a
desired state of affairs with respect to wellbeing, the opposite tends to be the case in relation
to knowledge, whereby “unknown” is “up” (e.g., “up in the air”) and known is down (e.g.,
“the matter is settled”); this is explained by the idea that it is easier to locate and take hold of
an object if it is on the ground rather than in the air.
Exploring the Theory
In the decades since Lakoff and Johnson (1980a, 1980b) introduced their ideas, scholars have
applied it to various aspects of the human experience, and in doing so have further developed
or refined the theory. For instance, many researchers have focused on the experience of time,
whereby this abstract concept is primarily understood through the metaphor of spatial
orientation (Lera & Michael, 2002). Thus, for instance, many languages construct past and
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future in terms of back and front space (i.e., where the past is behind us, and the future in
front), and sometimes also in terms of left and right. Research suggests that this metaphorical
linking is not only a feature of speech, but thought itself, to the extent that people cannot help
but think of time in spatial terms; psychophysical experiments indicate that participants are
unable to ignore irrelevant spatial information when making judgments about duration (while
the converse does not hold) (Casasanto & Boroditsky, 2008). However, researchers have also
explored the extent to which such metaphorical linkages are dependent on factors like culture
(rather than being universal invariants). Cross-cultural research shows variation in how time
is projected spatially, influenced by cultural factors such as reading patterns; for instance,
when Fuhrman and Boroditsky (2010) asked experimental participants to arrange pictures in
chronological order, English-speakers presented them in a left-to-right direction, while
Hebrew-speakers did so in the reverse direction, mirroring the way in which these respective
languages are read across the page.
One intriguing and important aspect of experience that has perhaps not received the
empirical attention it merits is wellbeing. That said, some relevant analyses have been
conducted in this area, touching upon all three forms of metaphor identified by Lakoff and
Johnson (1980a), i.e., orientational, ontological, and structural. With the first, as noted above,
Lakoff and Johnson pointed out the relevance of vertical metaphors in this respect, with “up”
and “down” associated with positive and negative affect respectively. Such observations have
been corroborated by experimental work linking affect to vertical physical orientation, some
of which even predates their work. For instance, Wapner, Werner, and Krus (1957) found that
participants who had done well on an exam showed an upward bias when horizontally
bisecting a square, where those who had done poorly had a downward bias; similar effects
were observed by Fisher (1964) in related to reported levels of sadness. More recently, Meier
and Robinson (2004) found evidence for an automatic association between affect and vertical
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position, whereby when making evaluations, people automatically assume that objects which
are high or low in visual space are good and bad respectively. Other analyses have focused on
ontological metaphors, i.e., pertaining to substances and entities. It is common, for instance,
to invoke properties such as light and heat, where the former is associated with happiness and
the latter with anger, although there are some cross-cultural nuances here; for instance,
compared to English-speakers, Chinese-speakers are more likely to reference body parts,
particularly internal organs, when utilising these metaphors (Yu, 1995). Happiness is also
invoked with reference to behaviour of liquid in a container (e.g., “brimming,” “bubbling
up”), although these can also apply to emotions more generally (including negative ones like
anger) (Ktlvecses, 1998). Finally, structural metaphors include people depicting themselves
as moving quickly from one place to another (e.g., “I was transported”), often doing so in
ways that intersect with orientational metaphors (e.g., “I was uplifted”) (Stefanowitsch,
2004).
Despite these interesting analyses, however, the metaphorical representation of
wellbeing remains an underappreciated and underexplored topic. The few analyses there are
either treat the topic somewhat selectively (e.g., focusing on a specific metaphor, such as
heat; Yu, 1995), or refer to it only in passing (e.g., in the context of a broader discussion of
the role of metaphor in conceptual thought; Ktlvecses, 1998). Thus, more systematic
investigations into the topic are lacking. To this end, this paper seeks to systematically
explore spatial metaphoric constructions of wellbeing, focusing on academic discourse
specifically. Briefly, before outlining the methods, it is worth clarifying what is meant here
by wellbeing. As a construct, wellbeing is increasingly favoured in academia as a broad,
overarching, multidimensional term, incorporating all the ways in which a person might hope
to do or be well (de Chavez, Backett-Milburn, Parry, & Platt, 2005). This not only includes
mental health, but also physical health (Larson, 1999), social relationships (Bourdieu, 1986),
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and cognitive performance (Tang et al., 2007). For instance, Pollard and Davidson (2001)
define wellbeing as “a state of successful performance across the life course integrating
physical, cognitive and social-emotional function” (p.10). Furthermore, wellbeing can be
appraised in either deficit-based “negative” terms, or asset-based “positive” terms. With the
former, wellbeing consists in the relative absence of some undesirable phenomenon, such as
psychiatric outcomes like anxiety or depression. However, fields like positive psychology
have shown that wellbeing does not only mean the absence of negative outcomes such as
these, but also the presence of desirable outcomes (Diener, 2000), such as flourishing (Keyes,
2002) or life satisfaction (Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985). As such, this paper is
interested in both deficit-based “negative” depictions of wellbeing, and asset-based “positive”
depictions. To that end, the paper focuses on two prominent journals pertaining to wellbeing,
one primarily addressing it from a “negative” stance (the British Journal of Clinical
Psychology; BJCP), and one from a “positive” stance (the Journal of Positive Psychology;
JOPP). The research questions are: (1) what are the main spatial metaphors used to construct
wellbeing, and (2) how are these metaphors deployed (e.g., in positive versus negative ways).
Methods
The study involved a content analysis of all articles published in the most recent edition at
the time of analysis in December 2017 of the JOPP (n = 14), and the two most recent
editions of the BJCP (total n = 14). (To obtain parity across the journals, two editions of the
latter were required, since each edition has only 7 articles.) All articles were examined for the
presence of spatial metaphor: metaphors were identified, counted, and coded for valence (i.e.,
positive, negative, or neutral).
Data Collection and Analysis
The data were the complete texts (minus references lists) of 28 peer-reviewed articles: the 14
from the last edition of 2017 in the JOPP (edition 12:6), and the 14 in the last two editions of
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2017 in the BJCP (editions 56:3 and 56:4). The authors and titles of these articles are listed
below in table 1.
[please insert table 1 here]
After downloading the papers in PDF format, the collection in its entirety was read through
twice. The first read-through was devoted to identifying which metaphors were present across
the collection. In doing so, the search was for lexemes, rather than specific words; for
instance, “raise,” “rose,” and “rise” constitute the same vertical-based lexeme, rather than
three separate metaphors. The second read-through then involved counting the number of
times each metaphor appeared, and identifying its valence.
The first read-through began with the first article in the JOPP; reading this through
carefully, I noted down any metaphor I could identify, thereby initiating a list of metaphors. I
then read the second article in the journal, noting any additional metaphors that I had not
already identified in the first article, and adding these to the list. In this way, I proceeded
through all 28 papers, adding metaphors to the evolving list as I encountered them. At the end
of this first read-through, the list was deemed complete. At this point, I brought order to the
list by grouping words thematically. I identified four main types of metaphor: (a) verticality;
(b) horizontality; (c) configuration (i.e., involving size and shape); and (d) dynamism (i.e.,
relating to movement). Accordingly, words were clustered in these categories. Then, to
prepare for the second read-through in which the task was to tally how frequently these
metaphors appeared in the collected papers I created a detailed matrix for each category, as
illustrated below in the results section. Firstly, I wanted to identify where in the articles the
metaphors were being deployed. In my first read-through, I had noted that the metaphors
tended to be deployed in five main ways: (a) conceptually (i.e., when discussing theory); (b)
experientially (i.e., in relation to people’s experiences); (c) methodologically (i.e., with
regard to empirical methods); (d) statistically (i.e., in the context of data analysis); and (e)
Running head: SPATIAL CONTOURS OF WELLBEING
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regarding outcomes (i.e., the results of studies). Thus, I created five broad columns, one for
each type, plus a sixth column in which I could add up the totals (i.e., the total number of
times a metaphor was used across all these types). I then subdivided these columns further
into four sub-columns pertaining to valence: (a) positive; (b) negative; (c) neutral; and (d)
total. These sub-columns would allow me to register, when a metaphor was being deployed,
whether its implication was positive (i.e., reflective of wellbeing), negative (reflective of
illbeing), or neither, as well as a total (i.e., irrespective of valence). Thus were the columns
and sub-columns of the matrices constructed. The rows were formed of the metaphors
themselves (i.e., one row per metaphor). Each row also had three sub-rows, allowing me to
register the number of times that the metaphor was deployed in: (a) the JOPP; (b) the BJCP;
and (c) both (i.e., the total across both journals).
Once these matrices had been constructed, I then proceeded with the second read-
through. Once again, I read through all 28 papers. Every time I encountered a metaphor, I
placed a tally-mark in the relevant box, assigning it according to: (a) which type of metaphor
it was; (b) whether it was from an article in the JOPP or the BJCP; and (c) whether it could be
regarded as having, in the context of the article, a positive, negative, or neutral valence. That
is, regarding the latter consideration, a judgment was made as to whether the metaphor was
being deployed to indicate something positive, negative, or neutral about wellbeing.
Sometimes this assignation reflected the use of metaphor in a stand-alone way, such as
speaking of a person feeling “up” (positive valence) or “down” (negative valence). At other
times, the assignation depended on what the metaphor was being used with reference to; for
instance, one could speak of levels going “up” with respect to satisfaction (positive valence),
anxiety (negative valence), or temperature (neutral valence). Sometimes the assignation was a
subjective judgement call, but in the majority of cases, valence was quite apparent.
Results
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Overall, 54 metaphors were identified. As noted above, these were grouped into four main
categories: (a) vertical (n = 18); (b) horizontal (n = 9); (c) configuration (n = 16); and (d)
dynamism (n = 11). The results matrices for these four categories are included below in
tables 2-5. In terms of (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980a) three main types of metaphor, (a) and (b)
involve orientational metaphors (i.e., pertaining to orientation in space), (c) features
ontological metaphors (i.e., pertaining to entities and substances), and (d) pertains to
structural metaphors (e.g., experiences and activities, such as movement through space).
These tables indicate the tallies for the number of times metaphors were deployed in positive,
negative, or neutral ways, with specific tallies per journal, and per how the metaphors were
deployed (i.e., with respect to concepts, experiences, methods, statistics, and outcomes). In
terms of the “headline” figures for each metaphor – namely total tallies for positive, negative,
or neutral valence these can be located in the final column on the right, in bold font.
[please insert tables 2, 3, 4 and 5 here]
Discussion
The analysis here sheds light on what might be regarded as the “spatial contours” of
wellbeing. Before discussing the metaphors themselves, let’s clarify what I mean by that
phrase, with reference to the theoretical ideas introduced at the start of the paper. Drawing on
the work of Popper (1980), three “worlds” were identified: human beings’ inner subjective
world (W1), the external objective world (W2), and the conceptual world of abstract thought
and its products (W3). Then, drawing on Lakoff and Johnson (1980a, 1980b), we saw that
these worlds intersect, whereby abstract ideas (W3) are influenced by people’s embodied
sensorimotor experiences (W1 and W2). To translate those theoretical ideas into the context
of the present paper, experiences of wellbeing (W1) are understood conceptually (W3) with
reference to phenomena and processes in the external world (W2). In that respect, it is
conventional to depict our inner world (W1) as some kind of container or arena, within which
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qualia, and also the experiencing self, are situated. This is an instance of what Lakoff and
Johnson (1980a) refer to as an ontological metaphor, i.e., conferring entity or substance status
onto a phenomenon, in this case the mind. This is revealed in descriptions of the mind as
being “full of thoughts,” for example, or the desirability of obtaining “headspace” (Porter,
Bramham, & Thomas, 2017). Thus, a panoply of metaphors are deployed to chart the
contours and features of this interior “space,” and the subjective dynamics within it.
The current paper was specifically interested in the way that experiences of wellbeing
are configured and understood within this interior space. In the introduction, we encountered
one very common metaphor in that respect, namely the association of “up” and “down” with
positive and negative affect respectively (Meier & Robinson, 2004). However, beyond that
one vertical metaphor, little attention has been paid to other aspects of the “spatial contours”
of wellbeing. Hence the value of the analysis here. In total, 54 metaphors were identified,
grouped into four main categories: (a) vertical; (b) horizontal; (c) configuration; and (d)
dynamism. As noted above, in terms of Lakoff and Johnson’s (1980a) three main types of
metaphor, (a) and (b) are orientational, (c) is ontological, and (d) is structural. Let’s consider
these categories in turn.
Overall, there was considerable support for the aforementioned association between
wellbeing and verticality. For instance, when Dodd et al. (2017) refer to people experiencing
“ups and downs,” it is automatically understood, without the need for qualification, that they
are referring to episodes of positive and negative affect. Metaphors pertaining to “up” were
on balance far more likely to have a positive valence i.e., be deployed to reflect or represent
wellbeing often by a 2:1 ratio. That is, when recording whether a metaphor had a positive,
negative, or neutral valence, the following ratios were observed: “up” (positive = 46: negative
= 22: neutral = 55); “above” (19:6:31); “over” (121:68:156); “high” (269:117:57); “rise”
(9:5:5); and “elevate” (353:21:4). Conversely, metaphors pertaining to “down” were more
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15
likely to have a negative valence i.e., be deployed to indicate illbeing with ratios
including: “down” (1:16:12); “below” (1:5:15); “low” (59:56:66); “under” (24:40:48);
“depress” (78:414:46); and “fall” (1:6:7). Of course, as these ratios indicate, these
metaphorical trends are not unanimous; there are numerous instances when an up-related
metaphor has a negative connotation, and a down-related one a positive connotation. Indeed,
differences were observed between the journals in that respect, which arguably reflects their
prioritisation of “positive” versus “negative” definitions of wellbeing. The JOPP tended to
focus on positive outcomes; as such, a given outcome going “up” tended to be a good thing
(e.g., an increase in satisfaction). By contrast, the BJCP tended to focus on negative
outcomes, and so outcomes going “up” are more likely to be undesirable (e.g., an increase in
depression). However, even in instances whereby up-related metaphors had a negative
connotation, and down-related ones a positive connotation, these could sometimes still be
regarded as confirming the general trend (of the verticality-wellbeing association). For
instance, numerous uses of the word “over” have a negative connotation, such as “overly” or
“overwhelming”; and yet, their negative connotation could be regarded as deriving from the
notion that something is in a higher, more dominant position relative to the experiencing self,
as per “overwhelming,” or something “looming over” one. Such usages still imply that it is
beneficial to experience oneself as being “over” or “above” a given entity or circumstance,
thus preserving the association of “up” with wellbeing.
There are interesting exceptions to the standard verticality-wellbeing association
though. These can be found in the usually-positive associations of downward-oriented
metaphors like “base,” “foundation,” “ground,” “root” and “depth.” In many papers analysed
here, “base” featured in a positive way, such as “evidenced-based” (Wadman et al., 2017).
Similarly, although “foundation,” “ground,” and “root” did not appear in this set of papers,
these also have positive connotations, such as when a person is referred to as being
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“grounded” or having their “feet on the ground.” In those instances, there is the implication
of stability and security, of enjoying a solid foundation. Indeed, compare that to the negative
implications of up-related metaphors that imply a lack of such tethering, such as “flighty.”
Thus, while there may be a general association of wellbeing with upward dynamics, it is
perhaps preferable if these are also accompanied by a sense of being rooted or grounded.
Also of interest is the generally favourable connotation of “depth” (Pavlicevic & Impey,
2013), as in “she’s a deep person.” In such instances, the intended antonym is not height per
se, but rather the lack of it, i.e., shallowness. In that respect, while upward metaphors like
elevation are indeed usually positive, this does not necessarily imply that downward ones are
necessarily negative. In the case of “depth,” what is indicated is a valorisation of expanse:
whether we speak of a “peak experience” or a “deep experience,” these both suggest the
value of our interior world (W1) being spacious, and possessing range, as opposed to being
shallow or cramped (Wilber, 1997).
Similar valorisations of expanse can be found with the second category, horizontality.
For instance, the positive-negative-neutral ratios for the metaphors “broad” and “wide” were
34:5:12 and 31:6:10 respectively. This trend is observed in the difference between calling
someone “broad-minded” versus “narrow-minded.” Thus, as with the vertical preference for
both height and depth whereby both tend to be construed as valuable here again there is
the implication that it is desirable for one’s interior world to be spacious and expansive. This
metaphorical trend is observed in phenomena such as the recent “headspace” meditation app,
which effectively sells itself on being able to facilitate an expansive and uncluttered mental
realm (Porter et al., 2017). But the story here is more complicated than a simple valorisation
of expansiveness. To begin with, metaphors of proximity such as “close” and “near” often
have a positive valence, with the ratio for “close” being 57:5:6. By contrast, metaphors such
as “far” and “distant” tend to be negatively valenced (as reflected in the difference between
Running head: SPATIAL CONTOURS OF WELLBEING
17
describing a friend as close versus distant). Similarly, the notion of the “centre” is often
positive, in contrast to the often-pejorative connotation of being on the “periphery” or the
“edge.” This differs from the implication of being at the “edge” of the vertical dimension,
where the idea of “peak” or “top” is generally positive (e.g., as per Maslow (1972) notion of a
“peak experience”). Thus, while expansiveness appears to be valued in both the vertical and
horizontal orientations, in the former there is perhaps a greater appreciation for exploring the
limits of that space, whereas in the latter a more central position is frequently preferable.
The vertical and horizontal categories both involved the first of Lakoff and Johnson’s
(1980a) three main types of metaphor: orientational. By contrast, the third category here,
configuration, primarily relates to their second type: ontological. Such metaphors are derived
from ontological concepts arising in physical experience (such as person, entity, substance,
container). Indeed, we already saw that the mind itself is often conceived using this type of
metaphor (e.g., as a container). Here this category includes metaphors related to size and
shape. In that respect, as per the categories above, there was a preference for expansiveness.
For instance, the positive:negative:neutral ratios for large and small were 69:7:11 and 6:33:7
respectively. Similarly, there was a strong positive slant to metaphors of growth (59:3:10)
and expansion (13:0:1). Such usages can be observed in psychological constructs such as
Tedeschi and Calhoun’s (2004) notion of “post-traumatic growth” (e.g., Brooks et al., 2017),
and in references to the literature or knowledge-base “growing” (e.g., Dingle et al., 2017).
These align with the preferences for “height” and “breadth” above. However, slightly
countering the expansiveness thesis aired above (i.e., the desirability of spaciousness), there
was a strong positive bias for “full” (293:72:18). In that respect, the articles tended to
celebrate the idea of the mind being “full” of qualities such as hope (i.e., “hopeful”). There
were also interesting nuances with respect to boundaries. As per the negative connotations of
“far” and “distant” with respect to horizontality, there was a similar pejorative bias for “limit”
Running head: SPATIAL CONTOURS OF WELLBEING
18
here (4:93:9). However, “beyond” was general positive (157:29:6), often with the implication
of pushing boundaries, such as reaching one’s potential, or expanding the frontiers of
knowledge (see e.g., Quinn, 2017). Finally, the category also raised the possibility of worlds
particularly W1 and W3 having multiple dimensions or domains, which was generally
presented as a positive (115:10:59 and 4:0:32 respectively) (see e.g., Belchev et al., 2017).
Finally, the fourth category, dynamism, involves the last of Lakoff and Johnson’s
(1980a) three main types of metaphor: structural. This refers to metaphors derived from
structured experiences and activities, such as eating, moving, and transferring objects. If the
vertical and horizontal categories enable us to depict the worlds (W1, W2, and W3) as three-
dimensional spaces, then the dynamism category allows us to imaging moving around in
these spaces. Obviously, we are familiar with the idea of moving around in W2 (the external
world), since this sensorimotor experience is the basis for much of metaphorical cognition.
But we can also speak of moving around in W1 (e.g., being “emotionally moved”) and W3
(e.g., “approaching a better definition”). In that respect, movement itself is often coded as
positive as with being “moved” – which was reflected here (47:18:11) (see e.g., Thomson
& Siegel, 2017). Likewise, having “direction” is usually conceived as desirable (31:8:8) (see
e.g., Fornells-Ambrojo et al., 2017). More specifically though, movement-based metaphors
often map onto the “approach-withdrawal” binary that one often encounters in psychology,
such as in the behavioural activation and inhibition model (Carver & White, 1994). Thus,
metaphors like “approach” and “towards” were generally positively-valenced (74:4:14 and
69:18:9 respectively), whereas “withdraw” and “away” were negatively-valenced (0:8:1 and
0:2:3), as indicated by usages such as “withdrawn behaviour” (e.g., Psychogiou et al., 2017).
There was also a positive bias towards active metaphors, in which there is control and agency
(e.g., “moving towards”), and a negative bias towards passive metaphors, where these
Running head: SPATIAL CONTOURS OF WELLBEING
19
desiderata are missing such as something “getting away” (e.g., Langdon et al., 2017) or
being “removed” (e.g., Dodd et al., 2017).
Conclusion
The analysis here sheds light on what might be called the “spatial contours” of wellbeing. We
have seen how phenomena and processes in the external world (W2) give rise to a wealth of
metaphor-based concepts (W3), allowing people to make sense of and represent subjective
experiences of wellbeing (W1). With a specific focus here on spatial metaphors, 54 were
identified, grouped into four main categories: (a) vertical; (b) horizontal; (c) configuration;
and (d) dynamism. In terms of Lakoff and Johnson’s (1980a) three main types of metaphor,
(a) and (b) are orientational, (c) is ontological, and (d) is structural. Overall, perhaps the
dominant theme was that wellbeing is associated with a sense of interior expansiveness, with
positive valence usually attaching to vertical metaphors of both height and depth, horizontal
metaphors of width and breadth, and configuration metaphors of size and growth. This theme
was consistent across both journals, indicating its stability across both “positive” asset-based
and “negative” deficit-based perspectives on wellbeing (as represented by the JOPP and
BJCP respectively). However, within this dominant theme were interesting nuances. For
instance, whereas there was a valorisation of limit points with respect to verticality (e.g.,
“top” or “peak”), with horizontality was more of a preference for central position (e.g., “the
centre”). Also with verticality, while “low” or “down” related metaphors were generally
negative, there were positive biases for terms such as “base.” In sum, such metaphors
arguably reveal the “spatial contours” of wellbeing, in that the space that they describe – e.g.,
expansive, with height, depth and breadth could be regarded as what wellbeing subjectively
feels like. Or at least, that may be the spatial aspect of what it feels like; wellbeing is also
likely to have other aspects that are captured by different sorts of metaphors than the spatial
ones focused on here, such as ones based around warmth and light (Yu, 1995).
Running head: SPATIAL CONTOURS OF WELLBEING
20
Regarding that latter point, it must be acknowledged that the analysis here is partial
and incomplete. A fuller picture will be obtained through further such analyses, focusing on
other types of metaphor. The analysis has other limitations too, which would also need
addressing in future research on this topic. To begin with, although the analysis offers a
valuable description of the metaphorical contours of wellbeing, it cannot provide any
conclusive answers as to why these metaphors appear to be dominant. For instance, when
discussing the association of “up” and “down” with positive and negative affect respectively,
Lakoff and Johnson (1980a) speculate that this is because positive mental states are
associated with an upright, energised posture, and negative mental states with lethargy. While
that does sound plausible, there may be other viable explanations; for instance, one possible
line of enquiry could focus on the evolutionary and historical past of humankind, in which
high vantage points may have been desirable (e.g., in warding off attacks), and so led to the
conceptual linking of height with wellbeing. However, that too is merely speculation. Thus,
further research perhaps involving methods such as etymological analyses would be
needed to provide clues as to why the metaphors discussed above have come to be associated
with wellbeing. Another limitation is that the analysis has approached wellbeing as a generic
state, rather than differentiating between different forms of wellbeing; it is likely that there
are spatial differences between its various forms, such as between hedonic and eudaimonic
wellbeing. Future research would ideally tease apart these fine-grained distinctions. Finally,
this analysis is limited to English, and to English-speaking cultures, and cannot necessarily be
generalised or presumed to be universal; there are likely subtle cross-cultural differences in
relation to spatial metaphor that also warrant attention (e.g., as per Fuhrman & Boroditsky,
2010). On the whole though, the analysis above sheds some light on the spatial “contours” of
general wellbeing, allowing us to better understand its subjective dynamics.
Running head: SPATIAL CONTOURS OF WELLBEING
21
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29
Table 1. Articles analysed
Journal
Authors
Title
JOPP
Bell et al.
The promotion of self-forgiveness, responsibility, and willingness to make reparations through a workbook intervention
Chen and Chang
Sport-domain gratitude uniquely accounts for athletes’ well-being across two cultures: Incremental validity above the general gratitude
George and Park
The Multidimensional Existential Meaning Scale: A tripartite approach to measuring meaning in life
Krause et al.
General feelings of gratitude, gratitude to god, and hemoglobin A1c: Exploring variations by gender
Malouff and Schutte
Can psychological interventions increase optimism? A meta-analysis
Palgi et al.
Changes in positive and negative affect as predictors of change in felt age: Results from the Health and Retirement Study
Passmore and Holder
Noticing nature: Individual and social benefits of a two-week intervention
Petrocchi et al.
Compassion at the mirror: Exposure to a mirror increases the efficacy of a self-compassion manipulation in enhancing soothing positive affect
and heart rate variability
Quinn
The beyond-the-self dimension of adolescent purpose: Absence and change
Reis et al.
Fun is more fun when others are involved
Sanford et al.
Couple resilience and life wellbeing in firefighters
Siegal and Thompson
Positive emotion infusions of elevation and gratitude: Increasing help-seeking intentions among people with heightened levels of depressive
symptomatology
Southwell and Gould
A randomised wait list-controlled prepostfollow-up trial of a gratitude diary with a distressed sample
Thomson and Siegel
Elevation: A review of scholarship on a moral and other-praising emotion
BJCP
Belchev et al.
Psychological traits predict impaired awareness of deficits independently of neuropsychological factors in chronic traumatic brain injury
Brooks et al.
Rumination, event centrality, and perceived control as predictors of post-traumatic growth and distress: The Cognitive Growth and Stress model
Dingle et al.
Choir singing and creative writing enhance emotion regulation in adults with chronic mental health conditions
Dodd et al.
Psychological mechanisms and the ups and downs of personal recovery in bipolar disorder
Ellett et al.
Distress, omnipotence, and responsibility beliefs in command hallucinations
Fornells-Ambrojo
Experiences of outcome monitoring in service users with psychosis: Findings from an Improving Access to Psychological Therapies for people
with Severe Mental Illness (IAPT-SMI) demonstration site
Johnson et al.
A path model of different forms of impulsivity with externalizing and internalizing psychopathology: Towards greater specificity
Langdon et al.
Impairments of spontaneous and deliberative mentalizing co-occur, yet dissociate, in schizophrenia
Miller et al.
On the reciprocal effects between multiple group identifications and mental health: A longitudinal study of Scottish adolescents
Psychogiou et al.
Does fathers’ and mothers’ rumination predict emotional symptoms in their children?
Vekas and Wade
The impact of a universal intervention targeting perfectionism in children: An exploratory controlled trial
Villalobos
Caregiver criticism, help-giving, and the burden of schizophrenia among Mexican American families
Wadman et al.
A sequence analysis of patterns in self-harm in young people with and without experience of being looked after in care
Waite et al.
Associations between behaviours that challenge in adults with intellectual disability, parental perceptions and parental mental health
Running head: SPATIAL CONTOURS OF WELLBEING
30
Table 2. Verticality
Conceptual
Experiential
Methodological
Statistical
Outcomes
Total
+
-
n
t
+
-
n
t
+
-
n
t
+
-
n
t
+
-
n
t
+
-
n
t
Base
PP
18
6
24
9
1
10
14
44
58
2
6
8
16
5
16
37
59
6
72
137
CP
19
23
42
1
1
2
62
64
38
38
2
31
33
23
1
154
178
t
37
29
66
9
2
11
16
106
122
2
44
46
18
5
47
70
82
7
226
315
Bottom
PP
2
2
2
2
CP
3
3
3
3
t
5
5
5
5
Low
PP
2
3
5
9
8
11
28
1
2
3
4
2
6
22
14
26
62
34
29
41
104
CP
8
4
12
7
12
19
4
4
19
19
10
11
2
23
25
27
25
77
t
10
7
17
16
20
11
47
1
6
7
0
4
21
25
32
25
28
85
59
56
66
181
Below
PP
10
10
1
1
1
10
11
CP
1
1
1
4
4
9
1
1
2
4
5
11
t
11
11
1
5
4
10
1
1
2
5
15
22
Down
PP
1
3
4
4
4
6
6
1
1
1
4
10
15
CP
1
1
2
4
4
4
1
5
3
3
12
2
14
t
1
1
4
6
8
8
4
7
11
1
3
1
16
12
29
Depress
PP
17
30
20
67
14
46
8
68
2
17
4
23
31
37
14
82
64
130
46
240
CP
1
76
77
6
78
84
33
33
6
6
7
91
98
14
284
298
t
18
106
20
144
20
124
8
152
2
50
4
56
6
6
38
128
14
180
78
414
46
538
Fall
PP
1
3
4
3
3
1
6
7
CP
1
1
1
1
2
1
1
3
3
1
5
1
7
t
2
3
5
1
4
5
1
1
3
3
1
6
7
14
Under
PP
7
6
3
16
3
3
12
12
3
3
7
12
15
34
CP
12
10
6
28
1
5
23
29
7
7
2
1
1
4
2
12
3
17
17
28
33
88
t
19
16
9
44
1
8
23
32
19
19
2
1
1
4
2
15
3
20
24
40
48
112
Short
PP
3
1
4
1
1
3
1
6
10
1
1
6
3
7
16
CP
1
1
2
2
5
11
16
1
1
5
3
12
20
t
3
1
1
5
3
3
8
1
17
26
1
1
1
11
6
19
36
Rise
PP
2
2
4
2
2
4
1
1
1
1
2
5
1
5
11
CP
3
4
7
1
4
4
8
t
5
4
2
11
1
1
1
1
1
2
9
5
5
19
Lift
PP
4
4
4
4
2
2
10
10
CP
1
1
1
1
t
4
4
5
5
2
2
1
11
Running head: SPATIAL CONTOURS OF WELLBEING
31
Elevate
PP
165
4
169
130
5
3
138
30
30
6
6
21
5
29
352
14
3
369
CP
1
4
1
6
3
3
1
7
1
9
t
165
4
169
131
9
4
144
30
30
6
6
21
8
29
353
21
4
378
Up
PP
14
2
16
16
2
18
1
53
54
3
1
7
11
3
3
37
3
62
102
CP
3
2
10
15
2
5
2
9
3
23
26
1
8
1
10
3
1
12
16
9
19
48
76
t
17
2
12
31
18
7
2
27
1
3
76
80
4
9
8
21
6
1
12
19
46
22
110
178
Above
PP
2
2
3
2
5
18
18
2
2
8
2
10
13
4
20
37
CP
1
1
8
8
5
2
3
10
6
2
11
19
t
2
2
4
2
6
26
26
5
2
5
12
8
2
10
19
6
31
56
Over
PP
35
5
9
49
8
4
5
17
4
25
29
2
3
5
9
2
25
36
56
13
67
136
CP
25
14
13
52
15
20
3
38
3
1
48
52
4
6
10
17
16
17
50
65
55
89
209
t
60
19
22
101
23
24
8
55
7
1
73
81
6
9
15
26
18
42
86
116
68
154
338
High
PP
41
7
5
53
30
4
5
39
3
4
7
9
4
3
16
67
14
3
84
150
29
20
199
CP
41
29
8
78
27
14
1
42
10
6
14
30
4
5
9
18
38
34
5
77
120
88
37
245
t
82
36
13
131
57
18
6
81
13
6
18
37
13
9
12
34
105
48
8
161
269
117
57
444
Top
PP
1
4
5
2
2
1
6
7
CP
1
1
1
1
1
1
2
t
1
5
6
1
1
2
2
2
7
9
Peak
PP
3
3
3
3
CP
2
2
2
2
t
3
3
2
2
2
3
5
Note. + = positive valence; - = negative valence; n = neutral valence; t = total; PP = Journal of Positive Psychology; CP = British Journal of Clinical Psychology
Running head: SPATIAL CONTOURS OF WELLBEING
32
Table 3. Horizontality
Value
Conceptual
Experiential
Methodological
Statistical
Outcomes
Total
+
-
n
t
+
-
n
t
+
-
n
t
+
-
n
t
+
-
n
t
+
-
n
t
Close
PP
16
3
1
20
7
7
18
2
20
7
2
9
10
10
58
3
5
66
CP
1
1
2
1
1
2
1
1
1
2
2
5
t
16
4
2
22
8
1
9
18
3
21
7
2
9
10
10
57
5
6
71
Near
PP
2
2
1
1
2
2
2
3
3
1
1
7
9
CP
1
2
2
2
2
2
1
2
5
t
2
2
1
1
2
1
4
5
2
3
5
3
2
9
14
Far
PP
1
2
2
5
1
1
2
2
1
3
4
8
CP
t
1
2
2
5
1
1
2
2
1
3
4
8
Narrow
PP
2
2
2
2
CP
1
1
1
1
t
2
1
3
2
1
3
Broad
PP
11
6
17
12
1
13
7
3
10
30
10
40
CP
2
5
7
1
1
1
1
2
2
4
5
2
11
t
13
5
6
24
13
1
14
7
3
10
1
1
2
2
34
5
12
51
Wide
PP
4
1
5
5
1
6
5
3
8
2
2
16
1
4
21
CP
3
1
1
5
1
3
4
8
1
2
11
1
1
2
3
2
5
16
5
6
26
t
7
1
2
10
6
4
10
13
1
5
19
1
1
2
5
2
7
32
6
10
48
Centre
PP
1
1
1
9
10
3
3
1
13
14
CP
3
3
2
7
9
3
2
7
12
t
3
1
4
1
2
16
19
3
3
4
2
20
26
Back
PP
2
1
1
4
4
4
1
9
2
2
6
5
3
14
CP
8
2
10
2
1
2
5
10
4
14
11
11
33
1
6
40
t
10
1
3
13
6
5
3
14
10
6
16
11
11
39
6
9
54
Front
PP
10
10
10
10
CP
2
2
1
1
1
2
3
t
2
2
1
1
10
10
1
12
13
Note. + = positive valence; - = negative valence; n = neutral valence; t = total; PP = Journal of Positive Psychology; CP = British Journal of Clinical Psychology
Running head: SPATIAL CONTOURS OF WELLBEING
33
Table 4. Configuration
Value
Conceptual
Experiential
Methodological
Statistical
Outcomes
Total
+
-
n
t
+
-
n
t
+
-
n
t
+
-
n
t
+
-
n
t
+
-
n
t
Dimension
PP
40
5
25
70
26
4
30
26
3
2
31
3
2
8
13
18
9
27
113
10
48
171
CP
1
8
9
1
1
2
2
2
2
11
13
t
41
5
33
79
26
4
30
27
3
3
33
3
2
10
15
18
9
27
115
10
59
184
Domain
PP
3
4
7
6
6
1
1
3
11
14
CP
17
17
1
1
4
4
14
14
1
35
36
t
3
21
24
1
6
7
5
5
14
14
4
46
50
Limit
PP
11
2
13
1
1
2
1
30
3
34
2
2
2
42
7
51
CP
1
1
1
1
44
44
6
2
8
1
1
2
51
2
55
t
12
2
14
2
1
3
1
74
3
78
6
4
10
1
1
4
93
9
106
Small
PP
1
1
2
1
2
3
6
3
15
3
21
2
2
5
20
6
31
CP
1
1
1
6
7
14
6
1
7
1
13
8
22
t
1
1
1
1
2
2
8
10
20
3
21
4
28
2
2
6
33
7
53
Grow
PP
7
7
8
3
11
1
1
2
2
18
3
21
CP
14
14
11
11
10
10
16
16
41
10
51
t
21
21
19
3
22
1
1
10
10
18
18
59
3
10
72
Expand
PP
6
6
1
1
1
1
1
1
8
1
9
CP
3
3
2
2
5
5
t
9
9
2
1
3
1
1
1
1
13
1
14
Large
PP
3
2
5
7
7
6
2
8
14
14
7
7
37
4
41
CP
3
1
4
1
1
17
1
7
25
10
3
1
14
2
2
4
32
7
9
48
t
6
1
2
9
7
1
8
23
1
9
33
24
3
1
28
9
2
11
69
7
13
89
Long
PP
4
2
6
7
1
8
11
13
24
2
3
5
8
2
10
32
3
18
53
CP
1
1
4
1
6
2
9
5
31
36
4
1
4
9
11
8
37
56
t
5
1
2
8
8
7
2
17
16
44
60
2
3
5
12
3
4
19
43
11
55
109
Great
PP
5
1
1
7
16
2
18
4
1
5
3
2
5
9
9
37
3
4
44
CP
8
9
1
18
15
11
26
1
3
4
1
1
22
16
3
41
47
39
4
90
t
13
10
2
25
31
13
44
5
3
1
9
4
2
6
31
16
3
50
84
42
8
134
Internal
PP
1
1
3
3
1
2
3
10
4
14
12
9
21
CP
3
2
5
10
8
6
24
1
1
16
16
4
11
4
19
33
21
11
65
t
4
2
6
10
8
9
27
1
3
4
26
4
30
4
11
4
19
45
20
19
86
Within
PP
2
6
8
1
3
4
23
23
6
6
1
1
3
39
42
CP
1
1
6
6
2
21
23
3
6
9
1
1
1
3
12
1
29
42
t
2
7
9
7
3
10
2
44
46
3
12
15
1
1
2
4
15
1
68
84
Running head: SPATIAL CONTOURS OF WELLBEING
34
Outside
PP
1
1
3
1
4
3
2
5
CP
1
1
1
1
2
2
t
1
1
3
2
5
1
1
3
4
7
External
PP
5
1
6
2
2
7
1
8
CP
1
3
6
10
4
4
2
2
4
2
2
1
11
8
20
t
1
3
6
10
5
5
10
2
2
2
6
2
2
8
12
8
28
Beyond
PP
30
5
1
36
63
10
73
2
1
3
1
1
2
58
11
69
154
27
2
183
CP
1
1
1
1
1
3
1
1
4
6
3
2
5
10
t
31
5
1
37
64
11
1
76
3
2
4
9
1
1
2
58
11
69
157
29
7
193
Separate
PP
5
5
1
1
23
23
1
3
4
1
1
1
1
32
34
CP
2
2
8
8
7
7
2
15
17
t
2
5
7
1
1
31
31
1
10
11
1
1
1
3
47
51
Full
PP
63
7
70
74
16
90
20
7
27
2
1
3
56
8
64
215
31
8
254
CP
29
15
3
47
22
11
33
1
4
5
2
2
27
14
1
42
78
41
10
129
t
92
22
3
117
96
27
123
20
1
11
32
2
3
5
83
22
1
106
293
72
18
383
Note. + = positive valence; - = negative valence; n = neutral valence; t = total; PP = Journal of Positive Psychology; CP = British Journal of Clinical Psychology
Running head: SPATIAL CONTOURS OF WELLBEING
35
Table 5. Dynamism
Value
Experiential
Methodological
Statistical
Outcomes
Total
+
-
n
t
+
-
n
t
+
-
n
t
+
-
n
t
+
-
n
t
+
-
n
t
Move
PP
8
8
25
25
2
2
3
3
6
14
3
17
47
6
5
58
CP
1
1
5
5
12
12
12
6
18
t
8
8
25
1
26
7
7
15
3
18
14
3
17
47
18
11
76
Direction
PP
2
1
3
4
4
6
4
10
3
3
2
8
3
3
18
7
3
28
CP
2
2
4
1
1
5
5
3
1
1
5
2
2
4
13
1
5
19
t
4
3
7
5
5
11
4
15
6
4
3
13
5
2
7
31
8
8
47
Approach
PP
23
4
27
3
1
1
5
25
2
4
31
1
1
2
1
1
53
3
10
66
CP
8
1
9
2
1
3
8
3
11
2
2
1
1
21
1
4
26
t
31
5
36
5
2
1
8
33
2
7
42
3
1
4
2
2
74
4
14
92
Toward
PP
5
5
39
6
2
47
1
3
4
1
1
4
4
50
6
5
61
CP
3
1
1
5
8
7
15
4
1
2
7
1
1
4
3
7
19
12
4
35
t
8
1
1
10
47
13
2
62
5
1
5
11
1
1
2
8
3
11
69
18
9
96
Enter
PP
2
2
16
16
18
18
CP
1
2
1
4
8
8
1
2
9
12
t
1
2
3
6
24
24
1
2
27
30
Withdraw
PP
2
2
2
2
CP
4
4
2
1
3
6
1
7
t
6
6
2
1
3
8
1
9
Away
PP
1
1
1
1
CP
2
1
3
1
1
2
2
4
t
2
1
3
2
2
2
3
5
Through
PP
5
5
9
1
1
11
2
14
16
6
3
9
2
2
24
1
18
43
CP
8
2
2
12
7
4
3
14
2
4
7
13
3
3
2
8
8
7
15
28
20
14
62
t
13
2
2
17
16
5
4
25
4
4
21
29
9
3
5
17
10
7
17
50
21
32
105
Around
PP
4
1
5
1
1
1
1
4
3
7
CP
1
1
1
1
1
3
5
5
1
1
2
2
1
1
10
12
t
1
1
5
1
2
8
6
6
2
2
2
2
5
2
13
19
Leave
PP
2
2
6
6
2
6
8
CP
4
4
4
4
t
2
4
6
6
6
2
10
12
Return
PP
4
7
13
24
3
3
2
8
7
10
15
32
CP
1
1
1
1
2
2
t
4
7
14
25
1
1
3
3
2
8
7
10
17
34
Running head: SPATIAL CONTOURS OF WELLBEING
36
Note. + = positive valence; - = negative valence; n = neutral valence; t = total; PP = Journal of Positive Psychology; CP = British Journal of Clinical Psychology
... Creative ways of writing thus offer a novel opportunity for participants to reframe the events of their lives in new ways. This might occur simply through the aid of metaphorical language to access deep feelings (Johnson & Lakoff, 2003;Lomas, 2018), or even through the fictionalisation of experience, whereby an appropriate reflective distance on personal material can be achieved that is potentially therapeutic (Hunt, 2008). Indeed, creative writing might encourage a more objective appraisal of one's personal circumstances; as Rosch writes, in a plea to unite the arts and cognitive sciences, 'the special province of the arts is to show people themselves in a mirror ' (2001, p. 237). ...
Chapter
The purpose of this chapter is to offer a self-directed, evidence-based, positive psychological intervention protocol for positive journaling. Specifically, the chapter proposes that effective positive journaling interventions require at least four distinct phases: (1) exposure to a range of positive emotions and discussion of these emotions in context; (2) offering an initial guided/structured writing intervention over three days in the form of a ‘positive journal’; (3) follow up support and discussion of the intervention to evaluate suitability; and finally (4) if appropriate, directing the client towards self-directed ‘ownership’ of this tool by encouraging the maintenance of a regular positive journal practice. In recommending this protocol, the present chapter draws upon extant qualitative and quantitative studies in support of positive writing, as well as highlighting its potential value across multi-cultural contexts. Also offered is a theoretical reflection upon the ways in which such a tool might be further developed to incorporate broader aspects of the field of positive psychology, beyond positive emotions, such as self-compassion or character strengths.
... Creative ways of writing thus offer a novel opportunity for participants to reframe the events of their lives in new ways. This might occur simply through the aid of metaphorical language to access deep feelings (Johnson & Lakoff, 2003;Lomas, 2018), or even through the fictionalisation of experience, whereby an appropriate reflective distance on personal material can be achieved that is potentially therapeutic (Hunt, 2008). Indeed, creative writing might encourage a more objective appraisal of one's personal circumstances; as Rosch writes, in a plea to unite the arts and cognitive sciences, 'the special province of the arts is to show people themselves in a mirror ' (2001, p. 237). ...
Chapter
The aim of the chapter is to introduce positive psychology intervention, which is useful and constructive in contributing to the development of leaders in terms of multicultural cooperation and team development, as well as conflict management skills within a multicultural organisational leadership context. By applying this intervention, team members are guided to improve the collaboration, conflict management and creative potential within the multicultural setting of the organisation. The chapter is based on a critical review of the relevant literature on positive psychology wave one (PP1.0) and positive psychology wave two (PP2.0), and provides insights into the selected applied intervention. This intervention refers to Jung’s active imagination and transfers it into the multicultural leadership context. The intervention is presented within a case study scenario in which it was used to strengthen individual and organisational cooperation, conflict management and problem solving competences, as well as the mental health and well-being of the diverse team members. The intervention of active imagination is explained and it is shown how team members could work with their images within the team management context to improve mutual comprehensibility, manageability and meaningfulness. Finally, conclusions are drawn and recommendations for future theory and practice are given.
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Objectives: Adults with mental health conditions commonly experience difficulties with emotion regulation which affect their social functioning. Arts-based groups provide opportunities for shared emotional experiences and emotion regulation. This study explores emotion regulation strategies and the emotional effects of arts-based group participation in adults with mental health problems and in controls. Design and method: The 62 participants included 39 adults with chronic mental health problems who were members of arts-based groups (ABG) and 23 comparison choir (CC) members who were not specifically experiencing mental health problems. The repeated measures design included self-reports of emotion upon waking (T1), the hour before group (T2), end of the group (T3), and evening (T4), as well as participant notes to explain their emotion ratings at each time. They also completed measures of individual and interpersonal emotion regulation. Results: The ABG participants engaged marginally more in affect worsening strategies than CC (p = .057 and .08), but there were no other group differences. All participants reported a significant increase in positive emotions, F (3, 180) = 28.044, p < .001, np2 = .319; and a decrease in negative emotions during the arts-based activity: F (2.637, 155.597) = 21.09, p < .001, np2 = .263. The influence on positive emotions was short-lived, while the effect on negative emotions lasted until evening. Conclusion: Findings show that participation in arts-based groups benefits the emotions of both healthy adults and those experiencing mental health conditions through individual and interpersonal processes. Practitioner points: Individuals with chronic mental health conditions often experience difficulties in emotion processing Participation in arts-based groups was associated with significant increases in positive emotions although these were short-lived Negative emotion was significantly decreased during arts-based group activities, and sustained to the evening assessment Adults with chronic mental health conditions were equally able to derive emotional benefits as healthy adults.
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Objectives: This study examined parental perceptions of behaviours that challenge (CB) in their adult children with intellectual disability (ID), and explored whether perceptions mediated associations between CB and parental psychological distress. Design: A within-group correlational design was employed. Methods: Sixty-five parents reported on individuals with genetic syndromes and ID who had chronic CB. Parents completed the Illness Perception Questionnaire-Revised (IPQ-R) adapted to measure perceptions of self-injury, aggression or property destruction, alongside assessments of parental locus of control, attributions about behaviour, parental psychological distress, and CB. Results: A high proportion of parents evidenced anxiety and depression at clinically significant levels (56.9% and 30.8%, respectively). Contrary to predictions, psychological distress was not significantly associated with CB. The perception that the adult with ID exerted control over the parent's life mediated the association between CB and parental psychological distress. Few parents endorsed operant reinforcement as a cause of CB (< 10%). Conclusions: The high levels of psychological distress in parents is notable and of concern. Further research should consider the reasons why parents have causal attributions that might be inconsistent with contemporary interventions. Practitioner points: Parents experience high levels of psychological distress while supporting adults with ID who engage in chronic behaviours that challenge. A stronger belief that the adult with ID exerts control over the parent's life may mediate an association between CB exhibited by the individual with ID and parental psychological distress. Few parents endorsed operant reinforcement as a cause of behaviours that challenge.
Article
Objectives: Although rumination can have a negative influence on the family environment and the quality of parent-child interactions, there is little research on the role of parental rumination in predicting adverse child outcomes over time. This longitudinal study examined whether mothers' and fathers' brooding rumination would each uniquely predict emotional symptoms in preschool children. Methods: The initial sample consisted of 160 families (including 50 mothers with past depression, 33 fathers with past depression, and 7 fathers with current depression according to the Structural Clinical Interview for DSM-IV). Families were seen at two times separated by 16 months. Children's mean age at the entry into the study was 3.9 years (SD = 0.8). Each parent independently completed the Ruminative Response Scale, the Child Behavior Checklist, the Patient Health Questionnaire, and the Dyadic Adjustment Scale. Results: Fathers' brooding rumination significantly predicted children's emotional symptoms over 16 months when controlling for child emotional symptoms, couple adjustment, parents' depressive symptoms, mothers' brooding and reflective rumination, and fathers' reflective rumination at baseline. Unexpectedly, mothers' brooding rumination did not significantly predict child emotional symptoms over time. Correlational analyses showed significant associations between parents' rumination and lower levels of couple adjustment. Conclusions: Findings suggest that fathers' brooding rumination may play a unique role in their children's emotional outcomes. If these findings are replicated, studies should examine the processes by which these links occur and their implications for clinical interventions. Practitioner points: Rumination is prevalent among individuals with depression, but to date no studies have examined the possible role of mothers' and fathers' brooding rumination in predicting children's emotional symptoms. Fathers' brooding rumination was positively associated with children's emotional symptoms over time when controlling for mothers' rumination and other important characteristics. Parental rumination might be a promising target for both prevention and intervention strategies for parents with depression and their children. The findings of this study could inform parenting interventions (e.g., educate parents about the possible effects of rumination on family interactions and children's outcomes, help parents notice when they ruminate, teach them to replace rumination with more adaptive strategies). The findings should be interpreted with caution. The study relied on self-reports, and therefore, the data are subject to shared method variance which may have artificially inflated associations between parent and child outcomes. The sample consisted of well-educated parents, and therefore, the findings should be generalized to other populations with caution.
Article
Objectives: Perfectionism is considered to be an underlying mechanism of relevance to a broad array of indicators of psychological distress. The current research examined the impact of a three-session intervention targeting perfectionism in children on perfectionism, self-criticism, and well-being. Design: The design of the current study can be considered quasi-experimental as the intervention and control classes were not randomly allocated but decided by convenience factors at the school level. Methods: Students (aged 10.08-12.79 years) were allocated to the intervention (N = 107, 41 boys) or control condition (N = 105, 33 boys), completing self-report assessments on perfectionism, self-criticism, and well-being at baseline, post-intervention, and 3-month follow-up. Results: At post-intervention, children in the intervention group had significantly lower perfectionism than the control group (d = 0.35, 95% confidence intervals [CI]: 0.07-0.62) and at 3-month follow-up had significantly higher levels of well-being (d = 0.33, 95% CI: 0.06-0.60). As predicted by theory, decreases in perfectionism mediated the relationship between condition and improved well-being. Conclusions: This exploratory study provides evidence for the usefulness of a brief universal prevention programme targeting perfectionism. Future research should use more robust designs, explore longer-term effects, and the impact on a wider range of variables, including scholastic achievement. Practitioner points: Clinical implications Perfectionism linked with negative outcomes in children can be decreased in a classroom setting. Decreasing perfectionism leads to improved well-being in children. Limitations More rigorous designs along with better assessment of perfectionism are required in further evaluations. The impact of perfectionism on scholastic achievement in children requires further investigation.
Article
Objectives: Evidence of impairment in explicit mentalizing in people with schizophrenia has inspired interventions to improve awareness of others' mental states in these individuals. Less is known of implicit mentalizing in schizophrenia, with current findings mixed. We sought to resolve previous inconsistencies using Heider & Simmel's (H&S) classic animation to elicit spontaneous mentalizing and examined relations between spontaneous and deliberative mentalizing. Methods: Forty-five schizophrenia outpatients and 27 general-community controls completed two explicit theory-of-mind (TOM) tasks and then described the H&S animation (to elicit spontaneous social attributions about emotionally driven, as well as goal-driven, behaviours), before and after an instruction to think of the shapes as people. Accuracy of basic and social facts and frequencies of personification and different mental-state terms were recorded. Results: Explicit TOM performance was impaired in patients. Patients also generated fewer social (but not basic) facts than controls to describe the H&S animation, and used less mental-state language, before, and even more so, after the 'people' instruction, despite that both groups had used more personification terms after the 'people' instruction. Measures of explicit and spontaneous mentalizing contributed independently to discriminating between groups. Conclusions: Patients respond less to the bottom-up signals of agency that ought normally to elicit spontaneous social attributions, even when cued to think of the stimuli as people, and the stimuli depict emotionally driven, as well as goal-driven, behaviour. That impairments of spontaneous and deliberative mentalizing dissociate in schizophrenia suggests that training deliberative mentalizing may not be enough; interventions to improve spontaneous mentalizing are also needed. Practitioner points: Findings People with schizophrenia were less likely than controls to spontaneously attribute causal mental states when viewing dynamic signals of emotionally driven and goal-driven behaviours. These impairments were even more pronounced when participants were instructed to think of the stimuli as people, suggesting that perceiving others in social roles does not prompt people with schizophrenia to anthropomorphize about others as agents motivated by their own inner worlds. Impairments of spontaneous mentalizing were found to co-occur independently with explicit mentalizing deficits in schizophrenia, consistent with the claim that humans can access two distinct systems for understanding others' minds. Findings suggest that interventions to improve conscious deliberative mentalizing in schizophrenia may not be enough; we also need to target implicit mentalizing processes. Limitations The patient sample was chronic and only mildly symptomatic. As such, findings cannot be generalized to other stages and phases of the illness. All patients were also medicated, allowing for the possibility that automatic responses to socially salient stimuli may have been pharmacologically attenuated. Future research may examine whether unmedicated young people at ultra-high risk of psychosis show a similar profile of mentalizing impairment. Future work may also examine whether impairments of deliberative and spontaneous mentalizing associate differentially with social functioning and different cognitive domains in schizophrenia.
Article
Background: Personal recovery is recognized as an important outcome for individuals with bipolar disorder (BD) and is distinct from symptomatic and functional recovery. Recovery-focused psychological therapies show promise. As with therapies aiming to delay relapse and improve symptoms, research on the psychological mechanisms underlying recovery is crucial to inform effective recovery-focused therapy. However, empirical work is limited. This study investigated whether negative beliefs about mood swings and self-referent appraisals of mood-related experiences were negatively associated with personal recovery. Design: Cross-sectional online survey. Method: People with a verified research diagnosis of BD (n = 87), recruited via relevant voluntary sector organizations and social media, completed online measures. Pearson's correlations and multiple regression analysed associations between appraisals, beliefs, and recovery. Results: Normalizing appraisals of mood changes were positively associated with personal recovery. Depression, negative self-appraisals of depression-relevant experiences, extreme positive and negative appraisals of activated states, and negative beliefs about mood swings had negative relationships with recovery. After controlling for current mood symptoms, negative illness models (relating to how controllable, long-term, concerning, and treatable mood swings are; β = -.38), being employed (β = .39), and both current (β = -.53) and recent experience of depression (β = .30) predicted recovery. Limitations: Due to the cross-sectional design, causality cannot be determined. Participants were a convenience sample primarily recruited online. Power was limited by the sample size. Conclusions: Interventions aiming to empower people to feel able to manage mood and catastrophize less about mood swings could facilitate personal recovery in people with BD, which might be achieved in recovery-focused therapy. Practitioner points: Personal recovery is an important outcome for people living with bipolar disorder More positive illness models are associated with better personal recovery in bipolar disorder, over and above mood symptoms Recovery-focused therapy should focus on developing positive illness models Recovery-focused therapy should address personally meaningful goals such as gaining employment.
Article
Objectives: Young people in the public care system ('looked-after' young people) have high levels of self-harm. Design: This paper reports the first detailed study of factors leading to self-harm over time in looked-after young people in England, using sequence analyses of the Card Sort Task for Self-harm (CaTS). Methods: Young people in care (looked-after group: n = 24; 14-21 years) and young people who had never been in care (contrast group: n = 21; 13-21 years) completed the CaTS, describing sequences of factors leading to their first and most recent episodes of self-harm. Lag sequential analysis determined patterns of significant transitions between factors (thoughts, feelings, behaviours, events) leading to self-harm across 6 months. Results: Young people in care reported feeling better immediately following their first episode of self-harm. However, fearlessness of death, impulsivity, and access to means were reported most proximal to recent self-harm. Although difficult negative emotions were salient to self-harm sequences in both groups, young people with no experience of being in care reported a greater range of negative emotions and transitions between them. For the contrast group, feelings of depression and sadness were a significant starting point of the self-harm sequence 6 months prior to most recent self-harm. Conclusions: Sequences of factors leading to self-harm can change and evolve over time, so regular monitoring and assessment of each self-harm episode are needed. Support around easing and dealing with emotional distress is required. Restricting access to means to carry out potentially fatal self-harm attempts, particularly for the young persons with experience of being in care, is recommended. Practitioner points: Self-harm (and factors associated with self-harm) can change and evolve over time; assessments need to reflect this. Looked-after young people reported feeling better after first self-harm; fearlessness of death, access to means, and impulsivity were reported as key in recent self-harm. Underlying emotional distress, particularly depression and self-hatred were important in both first and most recent self-harm. Looked-after young people should undergo regular monitoring and assessment of each self-harm episode and access to potentially fatal means should be restricted. The CaTS would have clinical utility as an assessment tool Recruiting participants can be a significant challenge in studies with looked-after children and young people. Future research with larger clinical samples would be valuable.
Article
Research indicates that feeling grateful is associated with better physical health. However, most studies rely on self-reports of health. The purpose of this study is to see if feelings of gratitude in general as well as feeling grateful to God specifically are associated with a key biomarker of health – hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c). HbA1c is an indicator of blood sugar control. In the process of assessing the relationship between gratitude and HbA1c, an effort is made to see if the relationship between these measures and HbA1c vary by gender. Findings from a recent nationwide survey indicate that women are more likely than men to feel grateful in general and to feel grateful to God. The results further reveal stronger feelings of general gratitude are associated with lower levels of HbA1c. However, this relationship did not differ for men and women. In contrast, feeling grateful to God was associated with lower HbA1c, but this relationship emerged among women only.