Words have power

THE POWER OF WORDS, excerpted from The Marginalian

Words are essential to the Helping professions. How we use our words can make or break a conversation. Recently I stumbled across this beautiful article in The Marginalian. which speaks elegantly and lyrically to the power of our words. On this bright morning, I thought I would take time to share.

“Because we know their power, we ask of words to hold what we cannot hold — the complexity of experience, the polyphony of voices inside us narrating that experience, the longing for clarity amid the confusion. There is, therefore, singular disorientation to those moments when they fail us — when these prefabricated containers of language turn out too small to contain emotions at once overwhelmingly expansive and acutely specific.”

John Koenig offers a remedy for this lack in The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (public library) — a soulful invitation to “get to work redefining the world around us, until our language more closely matches.” Koenig composites his imaginative etymologies from a multitude of sources: names and places from folklore and pop culture, terms from chemistry and astronomy, the existing lexicon of languages living and dead, from Latin and Ancient Greek to Japanese and Māori. He writes:

“In language, all things are possible. Which means that no emotion is untranslatable. No sorrow is too obscure to define. We just have to do it. […] Despite what dictionaries would have us believe, this world is still mostly undefined the reality we experience.”

Some of the words he explores give a magnificent nuance to what we see, hear and perceive. Here is a sampling. Let me know how these words stretch your imagination and have you take a look at  your clients the world in a different way

n. the unease of knowing how quickly your circumstances could change on you—that no matter how carefully you shape your life into what you want it to be, the whole thing could be overturned in an instant, with little more than a single word, a single step, a phone call out of the blue, and by the end of next week you might already be looking back on this morning as if it were a million years ago, a poignant last hurrah of normal life.

n. a feeling of quiet amazement that you exist at all; a sense of gratitude that you were even born in the first place, that you somehow emerged alive and breathing despite all odds, having won an unbroken streak of reproductive lotteries that stretches all the way back to the beginning of life itself.

n. the frustration of being unable to fly, unable to stretch out your arms and vault into the air, having finally shrugged off the burden of your own weight, which you’ve been carrying your entire life without a second thought.

Emerging from the various entries is a reminder, both haunting and comforting, that despite how singular our experience feels, we are all grappling with just about the same core concerns; that our time is short and precious; that all of our confusions are a single question, the best answer to which is love.”

So as we work to help change the trajectory of our clients and or their loved ones, let’s never forget the singular beauty of words. Starting where our clients are and using words that resonate with them allow for movement and change, Let me hear from you.