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  • Writer's pictureFiona Holiday

On The Inadequacy Of Words

A chance meeting yesterday led me to talking about play therapy and the opportunity it offers in terms of self-expression and experience sharing.

For children, who are still grasping for words to express their inner worlds, play and creative media allow embodied communication of how they experience the world. Sometimes the only way a child has to express themselves is through their behaviours and responses. When they experience being seen and understood, they can stop telling us. There is space for something else.

The act of upturning all the furniture in the doll's house might say a great deal about the upheaval of moving home. The opportunity to create a mess with paint, glue, sand, clay can allow a child to experience the messiness of life and offer a chance to transform that into something more manageable.

And perhaps it is not just children who cannot find a way to speak their truth? How often are we as adults lost for words when trying to communicate our hurt, pain and trauma?

However articulate we consider ourselves, words can only say so much. The visceral pain of abuse or loss is inadequately captured in the words available to us. I find myself grasping at words like betrayal, vile, poisonous, gut-wrenching only to realise that the verbosity belies the starkness in the felt sense I am trying to convey.

At these times, I reach for metaphor and image. The acts of piercing, pulling, twisting allow the physical expression that the spoken word does not. Exploring the metaphor of stitching conjures up processes that can be imagined. The healing power of being seen and understood at last cannot be underestimated.

We humans can communicate in so many different ways - we simply need to connect with someone who can listen with their eyes, their bodies and their imagination as well as with their ears.

If you would like to find out more about play therapy, please get in touch.

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