Collective Emotion During Collective Trauma: A Metaphor Analysis of the COVID-19 Pandemic

B. Liahnna Stanley, Alaina C. Zanin, Brianna L. Avalos, Sarah J. Tracy, Sophia Town

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


This study provides insight into lived experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Participant metaphors of the pandemic were collected by conducting in-depth semi-structured interviews (N = 44). Participants were asked to compare the pandemic with an animal and with a color, and to provide contextual sensemaking about their metaphors. A metaphor analysis revealed four convergent mental models of participants’ pandemic experiences (i.e., uncertainty, danger, grotesque, and misery) as well as four primary emotions associated with those mental models (i.e., grief, disgust, anger, and fear). Through metaphor, participants were able to articulate deeply felt, implicit emotions about their pandemic experiences that were otherwise obscured and undiscussable. Theoretical and practical implications of these collective mental models and associated collective emotions related to the unprecedented collective trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1890-1903
Number of pages14
JournalQualitative Health Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • COVID-19
  • United States
  • collective trauma
  • emotion
  • metaphor analysis
  • pandemic
  • qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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