Words Were Originally Magic is the title of an acclaimed book on solution-focused brief therapy, written by psychotherapist Steve de Shazer.
De Shazer’s solution-focused approach believes that the solutions to most problems can often be found in the words we use. This may, at first, appear naive.
In essence, to develop a more positive life, we each need to closely examine the words we use daily: we need a new story or narrative. Words offer the magic that is needed.
This belief system maintains that our problems persist because we keep on using the same old solutions; solutions that never worked in the past to solve our issues. Put even more simply, we usually try to solve our problems by putting the same wrong key in the front door and then wonder why it doesn’t open.
By using different ‘words’ or ‘change’ talk about the future, by visioning or thinking about it differently, we are on the way to changing a situation. This is where the magic of words comes into play.
The words we use, or do not use, are central to future outcomes.
This mode of thinking is also central to the belief of many seminal thinkers and the founders of existential psychology, such as Husserl, Morleau Ponte, Heidegger and Foucault.
Essentially, we create our future reality and eventual fate, good or bad, through the narrative we use.
But what if the narrative we use is wholly negative? It could be a narrative filled with threats, and driven by megalomania and narcissism. This, then, suggests that words may also have the potential to become ‘black magic’. In such cases, we need to use a great deal of awareness and cognition to examine what is about to leave the lips.
The President of the United States, Donald Trump, is spewing very frightening words directed at North Korea. The words are becoming darker.
In this blackening of words, there is an even bleaker construction taking place: a construction that threatens much of humanity. Words have the potential to become reality.
Now, more than ever, it is time words were thought about with just pause and contemplation.
All humanity holds its breath.
De Shazer, Steve (1994) Words Were Originally Magic, Norton, London.
Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard, Chartered Consultant Psychologist, PsychD, BSc, MSc, C.Psychol, C.Sci, AFBPS. Dr Tizzard is the Clinical Director of Christine Tizzard Psychology (ctpsy.co.uk).