“If names are not correct, language will not be in accordance with the truth of things.” ~Confucius
I have been naming and renaming my book, which will be released this year for months now. Each time I get closer to the core of what I am trying to say on each and every page. The last title: “Love that Works: A Good Clean Love Guide to Enduring Intimacy” feels like the truth of not just my book, but my life’s work. I like the play on words in associating Love and Work, which, according to Freud, are the cornerstone of our humanness. The idea of enduring intimacy speaks the truth about both the desire for lasting connection and the profound effort of endurance that is the basis of any lasting relationship. I feel satisfied and settled just hearing the words repeat in my head.
True naming of anything does this. Our feelings are available to us when we name them. They are more workable, and instead of them having a hold on us, we get to hold them.
In relationships, calling the dynamic by its proper name loosens its grip. The uncontrollable dark magic of relating becomes manageable. So much of our sexual anxiety comes from the lack of vocabulary, from our inability to language truly what we experience.
The meaning of words and the power in naming is true throughout life, but never so evident as it is in childhood. From the very first moments of naming and identifying our children, to the incredible pace of language acquisition that defines our first years among family, it is the power of naming that gives meaning to our life and our relationships. Consider the joy filled enthusiasm that literally pours out of children as they discover the power of calling something by its true name.
Our ability to language our experience, to accurately name the objects, feelings and interactions that make up our lives is how we order our perceptions and come to trust ourselves. What we cannot express, we cannot truly understand; our ability to name is the foundation for how we think and what we can think about.
What we call things reflects how we value them. Consider the multiple words for snow among the indigenous Alaskan population, or the many names for love that the French have. A culture’s language reflects its values deeply. How we denote the masculine and the feminine speaks volumes about their respective positions. Think of the names that popular black rap uses for women currently.
Choosing what we call things is one of our most basic forms of power and one that we often overlook. Saying what you mean may be one of the most positive acts you can engage in.