I’ve been wondering why words are so important. Could we manage without’em? This is an absurd question, but I’m still asking it. Even as I write this, gobbledegook or not, I’m aware it’s words that are making up these lines, not me. So where’s ‘me’ in all this?
Common sense tells me that words reflect our thoughts. But does it apply to me? As I look at these ‘reflections’, these words, I get a shock. What has it got to do with me? I mean the inner ‘me’ that doesn’t use words. Is it simply leaving words ‘nice and open’? Or even engaging in ‘Mindful Writing’? (1)
What is this: ‘Mindful Writing’? How can a full mind – full of words – be in tune with the inner ‘me’ that doesn’t have a word for anything? ‘Is it because you are a foreigner?’ I ask myself. But all I get is silence. Could it be that however ‘mindfully’ words go about their business, they can never be the ‘real thing’? So what is this elusive ‘real thing’?
When I wrote ‘LOVE LIES: A Journal’, I was hoping that writing things down would be therapeutic. I wanted to dig deep, crack the code that kept me in old patterns of thought and behaviour. But how can we crack the ‘code’ without knowing what it is all about? (2)
I hoped the main character André would help me break a template that I thought I had to live by. I was walking by André’s side imagining I saw myself in him with the eyes of a stranger. But was it really me and not just a ‘me’ assembled from a kit of words?
I couldn’t be sure. Life just went on as before. When I followed André from page to page, I thought I was doing ‘Mindful Writing’ or ‘Therapeutic Writing’ or something healing. True, writing things down helped and I found a few things out about myself. But something told me I hadn’t got to the bottom.
Then it hits me. Are these words really my thoughts on paper? Or are they the reflection of themselves on paper? Isn’t it words in our heads that put thoughts together? How else do we think if not with words? I dream in pictures, but I think with words. Or do I? I can’t help thinking it’s the words that make me think I think.
How can mindfulness work if words direct our thinking? What can we human beings do if ‘reality’ is merely a reflection of the way in which words arrange our perception? Isn’t this how words deny us freedom from their hold? Haven’t they colonised our minds since infancy and made us into subjects, predicates and objects?
‘I love you.’ ‘I hate salad.’ ‘I know what’s going through your mind as you read this.’ ‘I could write everything in inverted commas from now on.’ One example after another and what do you see? Words knitting into a pattern, always the same pattern, even when it doesn’t seem it. ‘I’m reading.’ ‘I’m feeling cold, happy, delighted.’ It’s ‘I’ and something else.
Does this mean everything we experience is split in two: ‘One side does something’ and ‘the other side receives it’? Because our thinking runs through the same grooves, it tends to make things on the other side of the split feel like opposites. Could it be that’s why we have witch-hunts, opposition parties and the opposite sex?
I can’t help thinking of ‘persecutor-victim’ or ‘rescuer-victim’ relationships, words from counselling that describe emotional dependency between two or three people locked in the pattern: ‘one side does something’ and ‘the other side receives it’. (3)
Is this how words rule our thinking? Or are they, too, caught in this pattern? The mind boggles. Still the words keep coming. They know their speed and timing. What is their purpose? Maybe I’ve got to do a bit more digging.
(1) For me Mindful Writing comes from blending Mindfulness Meditation with Therapeutic Writing. Key Mindfulness Meditation aspects for me are: being in the moment, accepting myself as I am, not judging myself, seeing my thoughts and feelings as simply thoughts and feelings that will pass. Key aspects from Therapeutic Writing are: writing down what troubles me can help heal, putting on paper how I feel means I may be able to distance myself from the problem, the more I write the more troubles can dissipate.
(2) See my earlier blog with the title ‘Reflections in the mirror of Mindful Writing’.
(3) Reference to the Karpman Drama Triangle used as a model of human interaction in Transactional Analysis (TA).
Whorf, B.L. (1956) Language, Thought and Reality, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
Chase, S. (1959) The Tyranny of Words, Harcourt, Brace and World, New York.
Wittgenstein, L. ((2001) Philosophical Investigations, Blackwell, Oxford.
Flanagan, L.M. (2011) Inside Out and Outside In, See: ‘Object Relations’, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland.
Thompson, K., Adams, K. (2010) Therapeutic Journal Writing, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London.
Gunaratana. B.H. (2002) Mindfulness in Plain English, Wisdom Publications, Somerville, MA.
Berne, E. (1996) Games People Play, The Basic Handbook of Transactional Analysis, Ballantine Books, New York.