This is not a blog about the perils of watching too much television, or how much time we lose gorging on box sets on Netflix. They are good things to discuss of course, but as I’m currently ‘investing’ time working my way through Star Trek: The Next Generation as well as seeing clients in my Hypnotherapy practice in Richmond, I don’t feel that I’m the right person to comment on that. (A post on addictions to follow!).

Not long ago I sat down to enjoy a couple of episodes and ‘found’ myself on season five (how did that happen?). The second episode is called ‘Darmok’ and it had me gripped all the way through. It is widely acknowledged as one of the best episodes and is a fan favourite.
I knew nothing of this beforehand.

Why did I find it so engaging? It’s about communication, and how we express ourselves. The Star Trek crew engage with a race called the Tamarians who express themselves only through analogy and metaphor – using references that the crew of the Enterprise don’t understand. They understand the words but none of the context or past incidents that gives them meaning. In order to attempt understanding the two captains end up on the surface of a nearby planet to face an aggressive life form together. The Tamarian captain Dathon hopes that through shared experience they can find a way to communicate.

One of the joys of the series is that it is lead by Jean-Luc Picard (played by Patrick Stewart) and he is the sort of reasoned, logical, fair, generous and tolerant person that we would all hope to deal with or perhaps be. He strives to understand and to be understood. Slowly, through patient attempts by both of them and an increasingly common frame of reference they establish a basic mutual understanding.

If you have access to it I highly recommend you take the time to watch it. I spent my time wondering what I would do in their situation but also reflecting on communication more generally. Language is both specific and general. We understand what is meant by ‘tree’ but when it comes to the specifics of your tree I know that they will be very different to mine. Yours might be tall, thin and covered with leaves. Mine might be smaller, with few leaves, perhaps as in winter. Buds? Fruit? On its own, or in a forest? Do you see it in bathed in sun, or in another way? Do you see it simplistically such as a child might draw (assuming your drawing skills were are simple as mine were at five)? We both see trees, but they’re very different. And their emotional resonance will be very different too. Perhaps yours was a specific tree – one you fell out of and broke your arm? Or that you got stuck up and had to be helped down from?

As a Cognitive Hynotherapist, when somebody comes to me and says that they are struggling with something – anxiety for example – I first spend time unpacking what that means to them. I will have my idea of what anxiety is and I know for certain that no matter what I think it means yours will be something different. Even if it’s similar then how you ‘do’ your anxiety may well be very different to me. That’s why taking the time to understand what people mean when they refer to something is so important. And it’s worth taking that time to gain understanding. That’s real communication.

That’s what I do. I start by gaining understanding and help you do the same. Or as the Tamarians would say, “Sokath, his eyes uncovered”.