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  • Writer's picturewendymaekirk

The More, the more ......

This is a phrase that Terry Real uses in his training, as in, the more she does this, the more he responds by doing that. That’s not how I want to use this phrase.

I want to use it this way – the more I work in the field of Psychotherapy, and with clients, the more I’m struck by how devastating early negative messages and experiences can be for people. I have a client, who has a really difficult time following through with the doctor and meds, and when we were talking about it this morning, he noticed that he had an overwhelmingly negative sense of dread come over him. When we did the Inner Family Work, there is a part of him that heard again, and again when he was growing up, from parents, teachers, peers, students, friends, that he was worthless, and this part has believed that whole-heartedly. They are afraid of friendships and attachments of any kind because they are painful, and they have been doing the job of trying to have him kill himself for over 20 years. They don’t want him to see the doctor or take the medication, because he gets better, and he feels better. They don’t want him to outright kill himself, but neglect his personal care enough that he will eventually die. They are sabotaging anything that is working. They are pushing for lack of attachments of any kind – more and more isolation – and at the bottom of it all, they are so angry, which covers the deep, deep unspoken sadness of rejection.

So, we gave them a Foo Dog which they promptly named after a Pokemon character. Foo Dogs come from China, and are part of the mythology there. They show up in a series of books about wizards that I read (Jim Butcher, author; Harry Dresden, protagonist). They are powerful, and safe, and protective, and loyal, and they cannot be dissuaded from staying alongside. Inside, you don’t need to feed dogs or put them out, or clean up after them. They are self-managing. Although he had resisted taking the dog or anything else from me, once the dog was there, he noticeably softened, and agreed to work with us further, not interfering with how things were going to go this week.

And I am reminded again how powerful words are. We speak them into other people’s lives casually, and expect that they will release what doesn’t stick, but words can be used to encourage and build up, or to destroy and damage a very fragile self. I work as an interpreter as well, and I will always remember someone on a panel saying, “I always have a filter on my mouth. I always am thinking, is this the right way to say this? How will this affect the other person? How will they hear this?” I am in awe of the person who said this. They were quite young, but had an amazing sense of insight. I meet couples all the time in therapy that think they should be able to say whatever wounding words they want to to their partner, because they’re telling “the truth”, as if anyone has a corner on truth. They say things in their families that they would be dismissed from work for saying or doing. They see no problem with that. I once had to confront a woman who was on the anti-bullying committee at her school board, who thought there was nothing wrong with her hitting her husband, and screaming at him, on a regular basis.

We can use words in a lot of different ways – to illustrate, to inform, to support, to encourage, to express feelings, and thoughts; and to hurt, maim, wound, overwhelm, put down, take away self-esteem, damage, and destroy.

C S Lewis once said about his profession that if he hadn’t improved the world by it, he took comfort in the fact that he had not made the world worse. We would do well to examine how we do things, and what we say to other people. If we supported and encouraged one another, this world would be a much better place to live in, and I suspect there would be a lot less mental and physical illness.

Just sayin …..

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