Monday, July 14, 2008

The long and wordy road...

The words we use are important.

Consider two patients. One tells me that she is in agony. The other says that there is a lot pain on the right side of her neck. They might have the same symptoms and findings, but the first is a victim, owned by the pain and without control, the second is observing her own pain, limiting it to the site in question. I wonder who heals faster???

I had a thought recently - that in a way, all that we sense is all that there is... (and all that we think/dream/love is all that can be? Indulge me - I was stuck on an airplane with a lot of time to think...) It seems to me that perception IS all there is. Though we all have different views and perceptive abilities, how one perceives their world is effectually how it is. So if you choose to perceive a situation as negative or painful, then so it will be. But what if, you may ask, a situation is inherently negative or painful - like a tragic accident or natural disaster? Well I still maintain that we have control - to choose to perceive ourselves as either a victim or a survivor.

We control our own worlds - with the decisions we make, by the reactions we offer, the words we use - our communication is our output in the world. The brain hears what the mouth says, the mind believes it (after all, who is more convincing than our own selves?) A book I'm reading offered this: "a word is a word is a sound in the air..." and I was taken enough by these seemingly silly words to jot them down. How amazing... words are just puffs of air - but minuscule air currents can create a butterfly effect. Are you in agony or discomfort? Do you hate someone or dislike them? Is it impossible or challenging? The words we choose matter. If we can chose less hurtful words, for ourselves, for others, for the universe... then I believe in doing so. "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" - this is not true, and we do a disservice to children by teaching them so. Words do hurt... words matter.

A pregnant friend of mine took a hypno-birthing class, where they don't describe contractions and pain, but refer to pressure and discomfort. How amazing. Can changing the way we anticipate and perceive the 'pain' of childbirth change the experience? We are conditioned to believe that childbirth is excruciating - and while I don't propose that with the right attitude it will be pleasant, I just can't see the benefit in reaffirming negative perceptions before even having had the chance to perceive or experience them. Will referring to labour as 'pressure' versus 'agony' make it less painful? I dunno... but it can't hurt, right? (or at least they say you'll forget it soon after, right???)

Consider the patient with the 'bad back'. As a chiropractor, this might be the most difficult condition to fix - I simply do not have the tools. I know how to restore motion to fixated segments and how to reduce inflammation in a facet joint and how to help you improve your posture and how to strengthen weak muscles... I can even alleviate your back pain and correct the cause of your problem - but if you are going to resign yourself to having a 'bad back', then you've already set yourself up for failure. Words matter.

In my own life, I'm making a conscious effort to select my words carefully, to choose the more positive and less hurtful way of communicating what I mean. I've even signed up for a 'word of the day' email, hoping that a larger vocabulary will provide me with more ways to describe, communicate and therefore create the world I want to live in. A recent word I received and am trying to grasp the meaning of is "laconic - using few words; expressing much in few words; concise".

Got it. Words matter. End post.

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