My sister and I have had many conversations about what she calls cognitive restructuring and I call shifting our lens (basically changing how we see the world). We are discussing the same thing but our educational backgrounds shape how talk about and understand it. She uses language from the field of psychology and I am generally influenced by post-structural philosophy. The thing that these different words point to so clearly is that knowledge frames how we see and interact with the world. While this is obvious, what it further points to is the nature of reality or illusion of it. The language used in different spaces (or academic disciplines in this case) exists within a set of rules and cultural systems that literally create the lens through which we see the world. This lens is externally manufactured and then embodied in such a way that we believe that what we see or feel in the world is true.
This is also the case in everyday language. An example that shocks my system when I hear it is the word “bitch”. I don’t know if anyone else is having a physical reaction to this word as they read it, but I can tell you that my gut is physically turning and tightening as I write it. Not only does my mind have a serious sense of what this word means in popular culture but my body is also reacting to the risk of writing it publicly. It’s not a professional word. It’s not a word used in polite conversation. It’s often meant to be derogatory or offensive. And yet, you change the setting and it’s not. Visit a professional dog breading site, various veterinary sites, and journal articles on veterinary medicine. The word is commonplace.
What interests me here is the still very present queasiness I feel at using this word right here and now. A word completely created… built… produced… outside of my body has the ability to manifest in a physical experience very different from the one a dog breeder might have using the same word. Language is critical for communication but my point here is that it is constructed and that this construction leads to embodied responses-responses that because they are physically emerging from our body without thought, seem to speak the truth about what we are experiencing. My point is that our responses are not always our own, they are often the product of the larger cultural shaping of our lens…. This understanding of the nature of reality may provide us with another way to examine our own suffering as we look to the larger forces that shape how we experience the world.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!