Life & Fiction is my monthly column at Wyn Magazine where I apply my experience with Story, reading, and the writing life to the broader goal of mindful, healthy living.
Names have power.
It’s a consistent story element across cultures and epochs.
Possessing someone’s True Name gives you power over him or her.
Guarding your True Name, or sharing it, is an important part of either protecting yourself or expressing your trust in another person.
In the Bible, the first man, Adam, is told to name the creatures, and there are those who tie this naming to the position of authority he was given in the created order.
Real-world parallels I can imagine are all the TV shows, movies, and novels where protecting (or discovering) the cover identities of secret agents is the core goal.
The name for anything is a word, and words hold power as well.
Words are one of the few tools we humans have for imposing order on the world around us. (There are other tools of course, such as numbers, but I must leave the treatments of those to other types of souls.)
Once we’ve named something, we’ve put it in its place. We’ve laid the foundation for how we will interact with it, how we will treat it. A word gives shape to the liquid intangibility of feeling and experience. A word is a vessel for truth and connection.
Using words to describe an emotion (or jumble of emotions) moves our experience of that emotion from the reaction parts of the brain (amygdala and hippocampus) and into the part of the brain where all of our “grown up” thinking happens (the frontal cortex). This is where we want to be making decisions from.
The emotions don’t completely migrate; you don’t necessarily stop feeling angry, afraid, or grief-stricken, but through naming, you enter a process that allows you to move from feeling helpless into a place where you might be able to take action.