February is a good time to remember all the ways you can support the health of your heart through the words you use.
St. Valentine’s Day is a great excuse, as if one really needed an excuse, to express in words feelings of love that run tender and deep. Love for any thing, any being and everything!
But let Valentine’s Day just be the beginning of a careful inventory of how you use words to express not only your feelings, but as well how you describe the events and conditions in your every day life. Perhaps consider a new formation of words, in a poem or a song. These mediums can turn a simple phrase into a fire, which to your delight and the delight of others may take on a life of its own!
We live in a culture which has disgraced its language in more ways than one. I am certain that all of you reading this can remember a recent time when you felt your receptive listening heart close down because the language being used to articulate something was just flat out numbing and senseless.
In fact there are times when I have noticed that a complete silence in a conversation has more impact than all the surrounding words. Silence in between spoken words is as important as the inhale in the breathing process. Think about it. Silence gives you time to reflect on what you have heard and contemplate how you are going to respond. And silence allows you to think with your heart.
In the few years I have been writing various articles on issues in mental health, those of you who have read the articles may have noticed that I stay clear of writing about the identified labeled syndromes, from the every widening range of anxieties to the ever changing descriptions of severe mental illness.
I was trained at the formidable New York Psychiatric Institute and the Columbia-Cornell. Hospitals and have a good working knowledge and experience of the prominent disorders and true mental illness, which increasingly plague our society. And I share with you that even though there is a diagnostic necessity to these labels, the speed at which labels have permeated our culture is terrifying. The impact of these labels is forever.
I tell you this to emphasize: be careful with the words you use to describe yourself or others.
The words “mentally ill,” “bipolar,” “schizophrenia,” even ADD and ADHD are so much in the popular press these days that they refer to everything from a political system, to a new product, to a person who has a creative way of living or expressing his or her life.
To hear these words used incorrectly does a very great deal of harm because it belittles the intense suffering of a person who really carries such a diagnosis.
More and more I am convinced that the methods of mental health therapeutic intervention must undergo a radical change. And this begins with defying the unnecessary proliferation of labels that create a “I am well, you are sick” dichotomy.
This dichotomy does still exist, much to the denial of many professionals, with appalling proliferation.
This change does not begin in the therapist’s office but it begins with our every day use of language.
We must learn to clearly describe our feelings, emotions and experiences. And even when we are sad or confused we must begin this exploration not from a place of something’s wrong, but from a place of questions.
We must ask ourselves, what is going on here? If you can formulate at least five questions to yourself, you are doing really well for yourself. We must not quickly assume some label we have heard.
“Assume nothing” is a wonderful phrase, and so very appropriate in these times.
So speak clearly through your heart to yourself and to others.
Your heart will swell with delight and the ears upon which your words fall will listen anew as if these words were never heard before. And isn’t that what love is all about, something new appearing as if it is eternal!
Aurore Maren is trained as a Landscape Architect and as a Psychoanalyst. She is currently exploring the effects of damaged and polluted lands on the psyche. She invites comments at email@example.com.