How to Stop Your Pain From Determining Your World—Part 1
I have written a lot of posts that focused on managing chronic back pain. I have covered a wide range of treatments and tips from essential oils to electronic games as distraction. One of the things that moved me and truly pulled at my heart was the belief by some pain sufferers that they are doomed to a life of despair.
I now know that the best way I can help those remarkable people renew hope is to to provide the answer to the question of how to stop your pain from determining your world.
Perhaps the reason you are reading this post is that you also need the answer for yourself or a loved one. Welcome to the first of 3 posts that I hope will strengthen your resolve and think anew about this notion that everything is already determined about your future.
Before we get started, I would like to ask you something. Are you familiar with linguistic determinism? If not, let me start by defining it for you: Linguistic Determinism is the theory that language not only influences but also determines the way we perceive the world.
The reason I wanted to define it is because of the serious implication that such a mindset may have on pain sufferers’ belief that their lives will never get better.
Even if a chronic pain sufferer has never heard of linguistic determinism, he or she may be buying it’s central message:
The world is the way it is because of language. The only reality is the reality that our language conceives.
Many chronic pain sufferers have used words such as “Burden” or “unreliable” to describe how they are seen by others and how they see themselves. Perhaps this has happened to you or a loved one. To help you better understand why this position may not fully describe such a situation, let’s think about the universe. Seriously, just follow me for a moment and you’ll see the connection.
So, let’s consider the universe.
As Michael Cole points out in “Culture and language”, “It is not necessarily related to what is ‘out there’. Our exploration of the universe would be restricted to the features coded by our language.” 
In other words, any feelings that result from the way we use our language may not fully reflect what is going on in the universe. We may think that we are completely describing what we see, but that may not be the case. It may be that the restrictions of our language does not make it possible to have an understanding of everything that is happening in the universe.
Here is the connection
It may be that the feelings of being a burden are there only because of the words you use and believe. The reality may be that far from being a burden, you are actually an inspiration to those that watch you cope with daily pain.
My mission in this series of posts is to show that linguistic determinism is flawed and thus any assumption which entails linguistic determinism is also flawed.
Remember that example I gave of the universe? If you make assumptions based on the restricted ways you use language, you may be missing out on a bunch of things that are part of the universe. In the same respect it’s possible that you only see yourself, because of the way you use language, as a burden to others and are failing to see other qualities that are in fact part of you.
What is The Case For Linguistic Determinism?
Before one can fairly show why linguistic determinism is flawed, one needs to examine why some people find it a credible way to look at the world. The focus on this post, thus, is to acknowledge that language influences the way we perceive the world. In my second post I will show precisely how language influences the way we look at the world. In the final post I will show why one can not make the the jump from saying language influences the way we perceive the world to saying language determines the way we look at the world.
The Way Language Influences How We Perceive The World
C. L. Stevenson, a famous American philosopher whose work entails some sort of linguistic determinism, has made us realize two ways in which language influences us.
- Language has the power to effect us psychologically. Some people call this an emotive or dynamic character of language. An example of an emotive use of language would be calling a black man ‘nigger’. The word ‘nigger’ has negative connotations and would produce a reaction to the person using it.
- Another use of Language is Descriptive Use. Language gets its meaning by being in accordance with certain linguistic rules. Although the second us of language is not supposed to have an emotive effect, it in essence does once one makes a mental connection to the descriptive word. For example, the emotive meaning of ‘dog’ in “That woman is a dog” is dependent not on the precise definition of “dog”, but upon what, when applied metaphorically to women, it suggests.
The Reality Our language Conceives
So what does it mean to the pain sufferer if he or she accepts the notion that language influences the way he or she looks at the world. It could be that words effect the way they will decide to act. To illustrate, let’s imagine a pain sufferer keeps hearing the word “difficult” when others refer to his or her abrupt behavior. If she accepts the notion that the only reality is the reality that her language conceives, then the pain sufferer may act in a way that reinforces the perception to others that he or she is a difficult person to be with.
He or she may come to believe that life as they know it is nothing more than a daily battle to control his or her “difficult” behavior. They may also come to believe, as stated int the beginning of this post, that they are a burden or are unreliable.
Are you a pain sufferer who has reached this stage? Do you live a life of despair because you think that you are a big drag on loved ones? If not you, then perhaps it describes some one you are taking care off. Hang on. This post focused on acknowledging the feelings of hopelessness that a pain sufferer may have. My second post will examine how language influences, according to those who support linguist determinism, the way we look at the world.
My hope is that even after acknowledging and then showing how language influences the way a pain sufferer looks at the world, it does not determine how he or she will cope in the future.
Let me reiterate this last point, simply because it’s so important:
The fact that you may feel defeated now, because of your pain, is not determinant of how you’ll feel in the future.
What’s more, it’s okay to acknowledge that you are angry, ashamed, and frustrated. I hope, though, that by the end of this series you will have found the inspiration and belief that you can move on and have a worthwhile life.
Here’s what I suggest you do next:
Review what you just learned and then examine honestly all the times you felt “bad” because you think that some how you have disappointed loved ones.
So go ahead and get started right now, because the sooner you acknowledge how you feel, the sooner you’ll get the benefits from this series. I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.
1. Micael Cole. Culture and Langage (p.79).