The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Finding a language

Once in a while patterns or themes seem to arise. What happens is that an idea appears and reappears until it raises enough attention that one starts to listen to it.

Along with the workshops, I attended during the German Transactional Analysis conference I started noticing the idea of “finding a language”.

As I grew up, languages have been very impactful. Until the age of 16, I was immersed in three different languages in three different countries. Which meant that switching language came along with changing cultures and reshaping my family environment.

Since then I’ve once in a while been asking myself how this affected my ability to express myself.

During the last few years, I noticed a keen interest in finding and seeing nuances in the ways we use words. The meaning we associate with words is very diverse even when we believe to understand each other quite well.

What the congress helped me realize is how difficult it sometimes can be to express something we experience, feel or imagine.

I had already learned that other languages have different or more words for specific emotions than we might have. I’m also aware of the granularity of emotions requiring words I sometimes don’t know or don’t think of. I’ve also struggled to translate some words from one language to the other when they don’t exist in the other language. During my studies, saudade was such a word. It only came into existence for me when others shared it and we integrated it. Searching a bit for this article I also became aware that new emotions appear because of a changed context.

That sentence “finding a language” somehow went further.

Those sharing it meant it from a point of view of a phenomenon or experience which needs to find a language to become real with others. Without the adequate language that phenomenon doesn’t seem to exist. The lack of language and vocabulary makes it impossible to share the experience. And it’s more than an inadequacy in our description. It’s a feeling as if our imagination could be inventing something. Whatever we saw or noticed seemed to remain invisible to others. The inability to describe it leads to a feeling of a lack of credibility.

We are so used to be able to explain things that when we fail others seem to assume that our imagination is too vivid, that we are inventing something.

We encounter a similar experience when we develop an idea, an innovation or a project. It takes time until we are able to develop the vocabulary and wording with which we can make our ideas visible.  We have to find a language for it.


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