How we Heal and Recover: Our Dreams, Language & the Power of Transformation

“My dream was to become an English professor…”

Words can move nations to war and enact peace between bitter long standing enemies. Words are the most powerful metaphysical device known and unknown to our world and beyond. I am a believer in the power of language. Whether it stems from some psychological bend on how I understand my place and relationship with the world or my long standing goal to create new language. Simply put, I’ve always had a relationship with languages and how words work. My dream was to become an English professor. To speak to young minds and cultivate new transformative uses for language. 

When my psychosis became ultimately unmanageable I lost not only my voice but my capacity to use language effectively and covey my thoughts in a manner that was meaningful enough for others to understand. They call it “word salad”. Sometimes “soup”. Depending on how language is effected there are different words to capture what is happening to a persons speech with psychotic symptoms. For me, this was one of the most difficult aspects of my recovery. Not only had I lost a personal battle of entering a graduate language program because of my illness, that illness, had in turn, disabled my core passions, and perhaps life’s dream. 

Dreams inspire us through imagery and imagination to see beyond our realities. Life’s circumstances had changed for me. While my loss of language was acute, and temporary, it was would be a slow uphill battle before years of learned knowledge would return to me. Ultimately it was the power of dreams to transform my reality to something else and create a new way of understanding the world that allowed me to heal and grow stronger. My recovery was therefore more than reversing damage to the body. The transformation not only allowed me to heal but to redefine and expand the very limits of my dream and how I understood my relationship with language and words. 

My dream is no longer to become an English professor but to work with language on a deeper level that isn’t set out to create new language but to think more carefully about how word are used & articulated by people. Through people’s uses, impairments in speech, avoidance of phrases, conveyance, delivery and choice of words I will evaluate their intentions through their behavior and in turn, gain a better understanding of their health and how to treat their mental health condition. For me, this dream, now transformed, is as real and important to me as the very originary moment I set out in a world of language and people desiring to turn their dreams into a reality.

This value I hold so closely is rhetoric in its most platonic form and I believe, the most powerful mechanism for transformation. In my most symptomatic days I wrote a paper on transformative pathways for the evolution of power to wield language to manifest both good and evil in the world. To create and to destroy, heal & recover people form their most tormented realities. Just as I have the power to transform my dreams and language, others too have the choice to move forward with their healing and recovery. Will you choose to heal or choose a life of pain and mental despair? Believe in your dreams & your power to be the person you can be through the transformative power of healing and recovery.

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Max E. Guttman LCSW

Max Guttman is the owner of Recovery Now in New York. Max provides psychotherapy, complex case management, community consultation, and self-management skill-building groups. His approach is based on evidenced-based practices (EBP). Max earned a master’s degree in Social Work from Binghamton University. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and a field instructor for both postgraduate and undergraduate students at Lehman College. He is also a social work supervisor and psychotherapist at Courtlandt Avenue Clinic in the South Bronx where he teaches students social work praxis in New York City. In addition to this responsibilities, he manages Mental Health Affairs, a mental health blog.

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