'Language exerts hidden power, like the moon on the tides' - Rita Mae Brown
Language, and the way it is used, has a profound impact on shaping our deeply held beliefs, attitudes and behaviours. Well...that's what I know now anyway!
To be honest I never really contemplated the language I used and how that affected my thoughts, feelings and actions until I was undertaking hypnobirthing training. I had a bad first birth, and wanted to be more prepared for my second birth. I knew that there were words I liked and some that I refused to say, but what of it?
Language is a reoccurring theme in hypnobirthing. We examine the words we use when we talk about birthing, the connotations of that word, and offer gentle and positive replacements. All well and good, but the hard work begins when we start re-wiring the brain to make those new, positive words stick and form a habit.
Most of us have some understanding of how the conscious and subconscious mind work. The conscious mind is the rational thinker, the analyser, and is capable of doing between 1-4 things at any given time. It's the gatekeeper to the subconscious. The subconscious mind is where we hold our deep, ingrained belief systems, and it's kept mighty busy doing a trillion or more things at once.
Over time the repeated messages that we receive from parents, friends, media, society etc, form part of our subconscious programming. Some subconscious programming is good, for example, saying please and thank when appropriate, putting on your seat belt to remain safe, washing every day and brushing our teeth. But some programming is bad, for example, I have an addictive personality because it runs in the family, I'm not good enough, or that birth is a painful experience.
Let's think about the word contraction. For me that word brings up a feeling of tightness, of pain. I imagined my hands contracting to form a fist. It brings to mind images of women doubled over, unable to handle the sensations. Before I knew how the uterus worked I used think that a contraction meant that my baby was literally being squeezed out! In fact, the we open to make way for baby to release. It's expanding, not contracting.
In hypnobirthing we replace the word contraction with surge. Surge reminds me of the beach, of waves coming and going. It reminds me of laying on my back, being supported by water, feeling the waves lift me up and then take me down.
Once the subconscious has learnt something it is often resistant to change. A way around that is through imagination. The subconscious cannot tell between what is real and what is imagined, and that is why hypnotherapy, affirmations and visualisations work so well compared to willpower and self-discipline. We repeatedly give the subconscious mind another message until a new belief system is formed.
During pregnancy I replaced the word contraction with surge. Every. Single. Time. My affirmations used the word surge. I asked my caregivers to use the word surge, but if they said contraction instead I just swapped the word in my mind. I spent time in deeply relaxed states, imagining how cool as a cucumber I would be when my surges would come and go during birth. I no longer imagined that I would be that woman unable to handle the sensations.
So did I feel anything after doing hypnobirthing training? Yes, of course I did I was having a baby! But I can't say I felt pain. I felt the sensations when I had my surges, but I was relaxed and cool as a cucumber just as I imaged I would be. In fact, the next day a nurse apologised to me because she had a lengthy conversation with me not knowing how close to having my baby I really was!
With the exception of writing this, and when teaching hypnobirthing parents about word swaps, I don't think I have used the word contraction since! The amazing thing about doing the training though was that I have been able to take it beyond the realm of birth, and am finding that I'm pulling myself up on bad subconscious programming. I'm using tools that I learnt during training to reframe my thinking and achieving my goals.
You don't have to undergo hypnobirthing training to do this. You don't have to do hypnotherapy or attend a personal development course (although ALL of the above are great things to do!). But you do have to want to make a change and work on it. Make those word swaps and make them consistently. Spend time each day visualising your goal and cram as much imagery into it as you can. Visualising how you feel when you achieve that goal. Remember, what our mind expects tends to be realised.