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The National Council of Psychotherapists

Est. 1971

Language, Labels and Communication

Taken from "The Twig of Revelation", by Harold Van Colle)


At this point I feel it worthwhile to give some thought to many of the ‘labels’ and language used in this book so far. To make a worthwhile communication from one person to another, it becomes essential for the communicator to make sure that any important word he uses shall mean the same to the reader or listener as it does to himself.


To illustrate the problem with labels, that is to say to talk of psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, mind, the brain-mind system, the brain, to name just a few, I wonder how many people could define or explain, again in really meaningful terms, as part of an overall model, any of these labels. Labels are, of course necessary. Certainly a person would not go to a psychotherapist to buy vegetables, nor to a hypnotherapist to have shoes repaired. So labels are necessary, and while they do serve a useful purpose in everyday life, they do not lead to any real understanding when considered in depth. If the term psychotherapist is mentioned, does the reader really believe that all psychotherapists think and work in exactly the same way?


It is not my intention to write the equivalent of a dictionary, so because ultimately I hope to join words as ideas together as a working model, at this stage I will simply engage in providing the reader with an insight into some of the ways my mind has worked in response to a few important words. The reader will understand that a word is merely a symbol which leads to a stimulation of the brain to associate with the particular experience according to whatever is stored in the brain of an individual.

Remember, two people may well have in store quite different associations with a word. The following are some words for consideration:


SURVIVAL: The first associated thought could be in terms of physical survival. To some it could mean survival of the ‘ego’ or self. Think of what has happened in the world, and is still happening - the defence of ego in the form of nationalism, religious fanaticism, personal reputations - to wars, social disorder, murder and so on. What humans do to each other for ego survival.


MIND: When in charge of a seminar at a conference, I asked each person present to offer his or her interpretation of the ‘mind’. No two people agreed. No person stated anything meaningful. One reason was that the ‘mind’ is a unique concept; therefore it cannot be described in terms of anything else. It involves a language problem, a communication problem; yet the word is commonly used with great frequency.


EGO’: Exists because of language. Animals, without the language of humans, have no ego.


BRAIN-MIND SYSTEM: This suggests that it is not brain alone, that the mind is part of a system, of which the brain and its contents are the tangible part, the mind the intangible product of the system, concerned with awareness of some of the contents of the brain.


BRAIN: Without wishing to make too much of the analogy, the brain, an organ of the body, can be likened to a computer, and the information it receives is stored, like introducing computer software. But the analogy ends there. Later in this book the concepts will be dealt with again. Just for the sake of provoking thought, is the brain a separate organ, that is to say, a separate living organ? If the reader thinks it is a separate organ, will he or she say where the organ begins, precisely, and where it ends? In a living being the brain is completely attached and is an integral part of the body, as are all organs integrated to form a whole.


HYPNOTHERAPY: Is this a treatment? Does it (hypnosis) make anybody do anything the hypnotist wishes, irrespective of the individual’s wishes? Can one say ‘it worked’ or ‘it did not work’? In any event is hypnosis a thing, or a state of the brain mind system? Some say it is an altered state of consciousness. Altered from what to what? What is implied if a hypnotic state is achieved? These questions will be dealt with later.


PSYCHOTHERAPY: ‘Therapy’ means treatment of disease, or curative treatment. In many psychological conditions there is no disease as such. One is dealing, in the main, with bad ‘programming’ of the brain. For example, a fear of snakes does not imply that the patient’s brain is diseased or damaged. Furthermore, where psychology is concerned, there are many schools of thought, thereby leading to different approaches to problems, according to which school of thought has the greatest influence upon the psychotherapist. Is it possible, I have wondered, whether one school of thought is right, and all the others wrong, or do they all belong to one model?


These mental excursions are intended to represent how my own thinking process operated. None of the ideas expressed are in any sense intended as final statements. They are only intended to be thought provoking, so that the reader can share with me some of the feelings and inner arguments that arose in my mind. One word, as for example, ‘experience’, can give rise to almost endless discussions, as also the word ‘consciousness’. That word has been the topic for discussion and debate between some of the world’s top scientists and psychologists. I have attended at least three whole-day seminars on the topic, and by the end of each seminar nobody seemed to have reached any worthwhile conclusions.


While on the subject of words, I feel I must say something about the words ‘logic’ and ‘extrapolation’. These two concepts are important to me because the development of this book has been, from chapter to chapter, totally dependent upon their use as you will see from the following definitions:


‘Logic’: the branch of philosophy that treats of the forms of thinking in general, and especially of inference and scientific method.


‘Extrapolation’: the action or method of finding by a calculation based on the known terms of a series, other terms whether preceding or following.


This is an excerpt from Harold Van Colle’s book, The Twig of Revelation, published in 1997. Although there are few copies of this book left in print, we will be publishing short excerpts from time to time in Fidelity. Harold would welcome any comments and invites readers to e-mail him on: - If you have an opposing viewpoint or anything of interest to add to Harold’s conclusions, please write an article for publishing in a future edition of Fidelity.


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