The power of words

30/07/2021 10:20am

Helen Priestley | Ryedale Hypnotherapy

When I first sat as a Hypnobirthing client many years ago preparing for the birth of my first son, the amazing Hypnotherapist who led the class started talking about something called ‘The Language of Hypnobirthing’. She went on to explain how words like ‘Pain’ had a different effect on the mind and body than say ‘Discomfort/Sensation’ and that the word ‘Hospital’ has negative connotations for many people to. Which is true for many people, not all of course. Unless you work there or are having a baby/visiting a new baby it's genearlly not for the most positive reasons that we visit hospitals.

I must admit back then I felt that I didn’t really ‘get’ that part of Hypnobirthing; Surely a spade is a spade? What difference does a word make? Crucially though I did take our Hypnobirthing Teacher's advice and  started and continued to use the different language around my upcoming birth, including banning ‘the P word’ as I call it from my birth experience. It worked and it does work. And I am widening this idea out to a lot more than birth now. From being something I didn’t get its something I notice and try my best to use more helpful language in everyday life now and most definitely in my Hypnobirthing and Hypnotherapy work.

Why does it matter? You may ask. Well think about it. Words and language have meaning and that meaning causes emotions and feelings in our bodies. Think about if someone you care about says they love you. Really think about that. Even the word love is usually one that makes us feel good and invokes positive, warm feelings. The love hormone oxytocin will flow. We feel good. Converesly if you receive an insult, a negative word or statement it has the opposite effect and can impact the rest of your day or more.

One of my sons made me think about the link between certain words and emotions again during the recent Pandemic especially in those first frenetic months. He remarked at the start of our first ‘lockdown’ how previously he’d only heard that word when there were murderers' at large and a building went into ‘lockdown’. Did the language around the Pandemic fuel the extreme anxiety many people felt during that time I wonder? I remember reading a Blog and I can’t remember who wrote or I would quote her, but the Author said she was using the word ‘Retreat’ personally for her own experience of staying home when most of us were forced into the aforementioned 'lockdown'.  I thought that was a really clever move on her part and would no doubt have changed her experience.

Language and words is important in Hypnotherapy and with clients we have often used a different word to invoke different feelings, renamed something to take away its power to great effect. I am reminded of a client several years ago who was struggling with her intense dislike for her CPAP machine which she desparately needed for her sleep apnea. If you know anything about these machines, they are literally life saving and essential to those who need them. We decided to give the machine a cute name, almost like a beloved pet or a good friend. It was only a small part of what we did but she did feedback that this renaming subtly helped her make the change to accepting and valuing the machine which was so crucial to her. 

It makes sense then for all of us to be careful with the words we use to those around us and even when talking to ourselves. To use kind, supportive language. I hope you can take my words here, play with them in your mind and come up with ways to reframe, reword and ultimately make every day a better day for you.

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