graphic: MetaSelf Logo

The mind is
inherently embodied.

— Lakoff & Johnson



Structuring the Self in Figurative Space:The Left/Right Axis

The Left/Right Axis can also be called the Center/Side or Middle/Side Contrast.

Use this chart to remind yourself of goals and strengths embodied by this axis.  Abstract concepts like ethics and the virtues (Fairness, good judgment, Equanimity) are hard to grasp, but you can use the spatial, bodily phrases on the right to suggest how to think about a particular issue and to invite your body to give you a sense of it. For example, you can imagine placing alternatives on each hand and let your arms give you a sense of the relative “weight” of the arguments. Try it!  And invent other exercises yourself.

The goal is to invite into consciousness the full range of what your body and brain can tell you. The method called Focusing, first described by Gene Gendlin, is one excellent way to do this. It helps you avoid getting disembodied  (“all in your head,” splitting your mind from your body), which increases the chances for internal conflict.

Notice especially the part that Balance plays in all this.

Keywords and Prefixes for the Left/Right Axis
Between, inter-
Against, as opposed to
Phrases that Mediate the Left/Right Axis
"Fair and blanced", Middle way, even handed
Shading instead of black and white, chiaroscuro
Complementarity. Can't have one without the other
Me and my shadow (Dancing together as complementary parts)



The lefthand column contains important abstract and subjective aspects of the self. The righthand column lists corresponding spatial phrases that ground these aspects in the body.

Abstract Contrasts, Concepts, etc. Bodily/Spatial words and phrases
Considering, Weighing alternatives On one side / on the other side;
On the one hand / on the other hand
Choosing between
Undecided On the fence, Pros and cons, The horns of a dilemma
Being of two minds about ... , Torn between
Favoring an alternative Leaning toward…, Inclined to…
Taking one side or the other
Contrasting and comparing Similar and different like a left and a right hand.
Two sides of the same coin.
Deciding Getting down off the fence.
Coming down on one side or the other.
Important / unimportant Central / side or peripheral
Equivalence Both sides amount to the same thing.
2 x 6 = 12, the equal sign at the fulcrum of a balanced equation
Variety, a range, spectrum Breadth, width / narrowness
Distributed / concentrated Broadcast / targeted, centered, narrowcast
Psychology, Mental Health, Virtue, Character and Morality
Abstract Contrasts, Concepts, etc. Bodily/Spatial words and phrases
Tolerant / prejudiced Broadminded / narrow minded
Conflicted, distressed Feeling torn between alternatives.
Between a rock and a hard place.
Mental health / mental illness Centered / off center
Stable / unstable; off kilter
The Virtue of Good Judgment Making balanced decisions
Being fair Evenhanded, Making an equal division in half
Being Just The Scales of Justice (image of Lady Justice)
All things considered… On balance…
Equilibrium Rawls’ "Reflective equilibrium"
Keeping opposite forces or factors in balance Keeping a balance between things;
finding the middle ground, the middle path
The mean between extremes the balance point, a delicate balance,
"walking a fine line between…and…,"
"walking on a tightrope"
Abstract Contrasts, Concepts, etc. Bodily/Spatial words and phrases
Equanimity Equa Even + anima spirit
(read the Wikipedia article on Equanimity)