Powerful Language and Creating Change

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A number of years ago I found myself working in psychiatric wards. It was an interesting and thought provoking time; there were a number of occasions that I went home wondering whose reality was actually correct.

More often than not I was asked to work in the locked wards; probably because of my size. What I started to notice was how some of my colleagues were attacked by patients and some where not. I became particularly interested in the shared characteristics of men who worked there and remained unscathed. It became apparent that apart from having long hair, those who showed respect to patients and engaged warmly and with interest never had to deal with issues of violence. There were though a number of my peers who were significantly hurt during my time spent on the wards.

In particular I am reminded of an interaction where I surprised myself with my quick wit and appropriate response and I am certainly very proud of it. We were having a particularly hard day on the ward. One of the residents was exceptionally excited and a wave of chaos rippled through the others in the wake of his disturbances. At one point there were three nurses being required to restrain him and I was sent outside into the garden with a young gentleman we will call Colin. Now Colin was in the locked ward for a reason, he had a record of violence and the incident that had left him incarcerated had involved a pool cue, a health care assistant and a number of broken bones; not his.  

As we went outside the mood inside was escalating, residents were poking their heads from their rooms and there was an increase in rocking and muttering. The doors were locked behind us and Colin started to pace around the flower beds. Backwards and forwards he picked up speed and it was obvious that the events inside were causing feelings to rise inside him like lava. The eruption occurred after he had placed himself firmly in my space, I practically felt the sweat on his nose touching mine as he shouted, “BUT I AM A KING.”

I will be honest, at this point I was pretty frightened and it is at times like these I respond without thought, sometimes the outcome is good sometimes it is not. This time I could not have said anything better.

“Yes Colin, you are a king. We are all kings in our own way.”

Colin stepped out of my space and repeated to himself, “yes we are all kings in our own way.” He resumed pacing but now it started to slow until he was again walking slowly around the flower beds. By this time I was knocking frantically to be let back in.

So how are you a king (or queen) and what words do you use that are powerful enough to create change.


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