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During the summer holidays and the dropping of Covid-19 restrictions, I found myself in the cinema watching the sequel movie ‘A Quiet Place II’. Whilst this is not a review, this particular movie inspired me to think about the luxuries afforded to those who can articulate and communicate themselves.
Without spoiling the events of the movie, the plot surrounds a family in a post-apocalyptic USA where extraterrestrial monsters hunt humans via auditory stimuli. This method of hunting thus eliminates the abilities of speech and communication between humans. Whilst this itself demonstrates the luxury of communication, a further point of interest I found surrounding this issue of articulation is the characterisation of the daughter being deaf. Her deafness doesn’t allow her to speak throughout the movie, with her only form of communication being American Sign Language. The continuous struggle of communication throughout the movie instructed me to ponder on the luxury of articulation. Not only is it a luxury in circumstances of deafness and selective mutism, but it can also appear to be a luxury to those who lack maturity in emotional articulation.
This appreciation for articulation is not to say that deaf or mute individuals, who struggle to speak, are incapable of expressing themselves. The inability of articulation in deaf and mute people is far different from the inability of articulation in individuals who can speak. By this, I mean that people who can speak, yet struggle with articulation, may be finding it difficult to translate thoughts into speech. Instead, my intention is not to dishearten deaf/mute people with praise of others who are able to articulate, but I want to simply bring consciousness to the luxury of being able to speak and express inner thoughts.
I feel that sometimes the struggle in articulation can derive from a lack of understanding of one’s current mental state. Such as being unable to make sense of one’s thoughts and then trying to explain this to another, during a time of challenging mental health. I have felt before that I am unable to talk about my mental health because I simply couldn’t find the right words and expressions to accurately describe what I was feeling. This is partly because mental health can often be hard to recognise, especially when it involves unexpected bodily/physical symptoms. Alongside this, sometimes emotions and physical reactions to these emotions cannot be objectively traced to a single reason. For example, a student who is feeling burnt out from the stress of university work may unwittingly have the cathartic reaction of crying. What I mean by this is that this student may ask themselves “why am I crying?”, and not be sure as to why they can’t seem to link their reaction to a single reason and thus cannot articulate and navigate their emotions into speech.
In no way am I trying to compare the experience of deaf and/or mute individuals with this scenario, however, I am trying to convey the frustration that can be caused by the general struggle of articulation. I understand that deaf and/or mute individuals are even more hindered in their battles of expression and articulation. The further battle for deaf people in particular is the basic fact that there is not a sign for every single word in the English dictionary. Whilst BSL/ASL can be learnt and employed by deaf people, it does not allow the full extent of articulation. Alongside this, mute people suffer from a plethora of obstacles and reasonings for their inability to articulate as well. Whilst I am in no position to offer any guidance to deaf and mute people in their battles of articulation, I would like to provide some ways in which individuals who are not deaf and/or mute could improve their relationship with articulation.
One of the most key issues in struggling to articulate is simply not being aware of the correct wording for certain emotions that you may feel. So here are a few terms that many people tend to feel but fail to explain. As a quick disclaimer, these terms have no intention to diagnose poor mental health, but simply offer an explanation to certain feelings/emotions that can be hard to articulate. Therefore, I encourage that these terms should be used lightly and with care when discussing mental health. To start off with a simple term that is very commonly used is ‘depersonalisation’. This is when an individual feels detached from themselves, including feeling detached from their body and mind. It can be most easily understood as feeling like you are on auto-pilot, and are more of an observer of your own mind and/or body rather than the controller. Depersonalisation is a common sign of all sorts of poor mental health and can be very hard to explain whilst scary to experience. Another term that can also be used to aid the articulation of mental health, is ‘anhedonia’ which involves the lack of interest or enjoyment in things that you usually enjoy. This emotion can occur in depression, anxiety and nearly every mental health disorder, as well as simply occurring due to stress.
There are hundreds of more terms that can be understood to better the articulation of our mental health. Whilst I have provided examples that aid the articulation of poor mental health, there are many more terms that can be understood to better our articulation of good mental health, as well as to better our everyday use of language. For example, Brianna Wiest’s article “40 Words For Emotion You’ve Felt, But Couldn’t Explain” on the Thought Catalog website contains a lengthy list of terms for specific emotions that can be used to expand articulation.
Articulation is a luxury. Although it differs in usage for everyone, we should be grateful for such a simple ability. For some, it is not simply the case of being able to speak, but choosing to speak. If you do struggle to talk about how you feel, try and consider practising appreciation for your ability to talk and communicate with others. This does sound like such a basic ability to be grateful for but it is a huge daily struggle in the lives of deaf and/or mute individuals who simply wish to express the way they feel. Whilst I cannot personally speak for deaf and/or mute individuals, I would encourage using this appreciation for speech as a stepping stone to widening your knowledge of articulation. You never know when you may need to use the words.