Eric Evans

Registered Psychotherapist

Toronto Psychotherapist working with depression, anxiety, serious illness, creativity, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer issues.

Your language and mine.

The idea that the language we speak is closely linked with many things - with our bodies, our emotions, our unconscious selves, our past, our family – has been on my mind these days. Jacques Lacan, of course, spoke of this all the time, but many others did as well, mostly in philosophy and cultural studies.

We in psychotherapy, at least in North America, have a prejudice, I think. Something to do with privileging emotion over speech. As if the two were entirely separate. But we learn to speak at such an early age that it seems inevitable that the language we “absorb” from our family is inextricable from the emotional valance of that family. It is a part of all the dynamics of that family, along with its history and the facts of that history. The way our caregivers use language says so much about them as emotional and cognitive beings, with all the omissions and blindspots and assumptions they bring.

It is a reminder for me to pay attention to the actual speech my clients use, along with everything else they bring. It is just as essential to them as their emotions and memories. I was sitting with a client today and realized that the way he used a word – an everyday sort of word – was not the same way I use the same word. I asked him how he would define it and after a look of surprise, he defined it in a rich, nuanced way and in a completely different way than I would have. He realized that this word, for him, was connected to a very specific time of his life where a number of important and difficult changes occurred. All this from one word.

I feel like there's so much I could say on this topic so this may be the first of a few entries about language. Stay tuned.