The Power of a Good Title

You might have noticed, but we in Reclamation believe that there is power in language. It’s why we deliberate over naming beloved pets, first cars, boats, children– why we struggle to figure out a clever caption for our heavily filtered and staged snapshots for the feed. 

Names and titles? They are powerful. 

We think of these words primarily as  nouns, but we don’t always think about the verb— the action. The act of naming. The power of entitling. 

Even more infrequent though is our practice of actually naming or attempting to give a title to the season that we are in within our lives.

Heather Stringer says that we have a tendency to “go around life rather than through it”. That hits me right between the eyes. And I wonder if our inclination to simply “go around” life is tied to a deep desire to not look all that closely at what is actually going on in our lives.

I’m going to pose a rather bold, and perhaps frustrating, question: what if we can’t go “through” our lives if we don’t really give language to what’s going on in them?

I know I go “around” my life when I am doing pretty much everything within my power to just keep on moving, numbing, distracting, pleasing. But all of that typically results with me finding myself crying in a grocery store when I can’t find breadcrumbs or someone cuts me off in traffic.

In those moments where I come face-to-face with the reality that my attempts to live my life are coming up with quite a bit to be desired, I find myself asking the question: what is even going on with me?

And that one question kicks off quite the series:

Could it be my strained relationship with my mother?

Could it be the steady string of work-related frustrations?

Could it be the pet forgetting for the seventh time today that he goes to the bathroom outside?

Could it be that certain triggers are still *cough* triggers?

Wherever we are at, and whatever we are feeling, we have an obligation to our hearts, to our souls, to our bodies, to grapple to find the language to better understand it.

The queen herself, Brené Brown, explains, “Language shows us that naming an experience doesn’t give the experience more power, it gives us the power of understanding and meaning”.

It can be as simple as taking a moment and writing out in our journal, speaking out into the silence, or sharing with a close friend that line of thought and the grappling that inevitably follows with our honesty. If we can begin to tease it out, we might have the grace to find clarity.

Because with that line of thought and discussion, we might be able to name where we are— we might even look at it like a writer would when they are deliberating over naming a chapter.

I recently began reading a book in which the writer helpfully and rather creatively begins each chapter with a clever title and then a very brief and telling description of what the chapter will entail for its character of focus.

Consider this for an example: Summer Tensions: in which this woman realizes she still does not know how to trust the intentions of others.

With some kind of name, or chapter title, perhaps we can then step into not just an awareness but also a practice of moving through our lives. We might even have the grace to honor the anguish, the joy, even the hope brimming within us.

Application: Grab your journal and a pen. Begin to just list what is going on in your life. Anything from your current work life to your physical environment. Note where you are relationally. Jot down key emotions you have been experiencing. Resist the urge to classify any of this as “good or bad”– as the yogis might say, let’s simply acknowledge that it simply “is”.

Step away from what you’ve written. Listen to a favorite song or two– a track you simply find yourself drawn to in particular seasons.

Return to what you have written. Begin to scan through your notes– take a moment to actually underline key words or phrases you see coming off the page.

Then begin to give a “rough” title to this season of your life. It’s okay if it’s too long– it’s okay if it’s not clever. Opt for honest. Opt for real.

That’s where we find freedom. That’s where we find healing.

Additional Application: Pair your “title” with a practice. For a reference, listen to The Place We Find Ourselves podcast interview with Heather Stringer. A practice (or ritual) could be as simple as finding some type of holistic activity you can do that complements your title.

For example, if the chapter title has to do with “numbness”, perhaps a good practice might be taking two minutes a day to simply feel and experience– maybe even enjoy, the sensation of warm water running over your hands. For another example, perhaps you are feeling stagnant; a good holistic ritual could be movement: carving out even just a few minutes in your day for a walk or a yoga practice to demonstrate to your body and soul that this stagnation is not forever. Let that movement open up time to reflect on where you want to move.


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