Coping and Complaining: Attachment and the Language of Dis-Ease

Coping and Complaining: Attachment and the Language of Dis-Ease

Coping and Complaining: Attachment and the Language of Dis-Ease

Coping and Complaining: Attachment and the Language of Dis-Ease

Synopsis

Good clinical practice is impossible without an understanding of the ways in which patients present their complaints. This text provides guidance for clinicians on how to identify various coping styles, and how to improve the quality of discourse with people of different backgrounds and ages.

Excerpt

Books are good enough in their own way, but they are a mighty bloodless substitute for life.

Robert Louis Stevenson, 'An Apology for Idlers'

When I first moved to Norway I was taught Norwegian in classes for foreigners. There were about fifteen different nationalities present, and we were grasping at the possibility of talking with each other, about what it was like being in Norway. We got nowhere for a long time. The only spoken language that we had in common was the concrete language of 'this is a chair', 'stand/sit'. When the only language being spoken was Norwegian, the chair, or the teacher's example, was needed to ensure that we understood what was required. Feelings about being in Norway could not be on the agenda as we had no words for these hidden 'blips'. Feelings sprang up on our internal screens, and were visible for others to guess at through our facial expressions and body posture. We were unable to use words to reflect on and cope with them. We did not share a cultural way of interpreting and responding to our expressions.

Learning a foreign language in one's mature years does not mimic the process a young child uses to learn a language. Nevertheless it brings forcibly home the difficulties in developing a vocabulary for conveying subjective states, be they joy or discomfort. People have very different styles. Some want us to know of their aches and pains before we feel we have really got to know them, and even then they may lay it on thick. Others are very self-contained and tell us afterwards about the discomfort they had. Yet others seem to balance things in a different sort of way, checking out whether they could share their difficulty, but not being too reticent to try to make use of another to help them cope. In keeping with these stereotypes, their body postures may either scream at you with their aches, hide them from view, or be one way they peep out, so that others

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