Linguistic Alchemy: No magic wands required

Al·che·my /ˈalkəmē/


1. The medieval forerunner of chemistry, based on the supposed transformation of matter. It was concerned particularly with attempts to convert base metals into gold or to find a universal elixir.

Similar: Chemistry, magic, sorcery, witchcraft, enchantment

2.   A seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.

Magical you

Did you know that you are a magician? Like it or not, we all are. Before you go running to a priest for confession or to an accountability partner to release yourself of the burden of “witchcraft,” please hear me out.

Alchemy is the process of intentional chemical change. We all do it every day, all day long, most often without even noticing. Furthermore, the alchemy that we create helps to form our sense of our identity. Who we think we are or are not profoundly affects our choices. 

Play my little game…

I want to challenge you to try something.

Right now, say the following sentence out loud: “I always get nervous when I meet new people! I fumble my words every time. I’m so stupid.”

Notice what you feel in your body as you say that.  Did anything get tight? Any tumbling in your stomach? Any other sensations?

Now say this out loud: “I used to get nervous and fumble my words when I met new people, but now I’m learning that it’s ok to now always know what to say. Pauses don’t have to be awkward.”

What do you feel in our body after saying that?  Is anything different?

Let’s try a different one.

Say out loud: “I’m always broke. I just can’t get control of my money.” (Do a body check.)

Now try: “I’m going to do some research into different ways of handling money. I’m sure there’s someone out there with ideas that can help me change this part of my life.” (Body check.)

Last one. 

Say out loud, “My mother’s grandparents were slaves.”

Now try: “My mother’s grandparents were people who were enslaved.”

How we see ourselves

Words form the way we see ourselves. In the first example, we told ourselves that we are stupid because we get nervous when we meet new people. In the second one we decided we were hopelessly stuck with being broke. In the final example, our family has been relegated to sub-human status.

Now look at the changed statement. In the first one, we are free to just be ourselves when we meet someone and to stop carrying the weight of that first dialogue all by ourselves. In the second one we are empowered to change our future. In the third example, we honor the humanity of our ancestors, refuse the denigration, and recognize that enslavement was something that was laid on top of who they were: It is not the summary of their existence.

How we changed our identity

With each changed statement, we changed the chemical firings in our bodies. We diminished the flow of cortisol and adrenaline so that we can think. We fired some endorphins. Dopamine likely freed up some and started working its way through us, leaving us feeling more positive and confident.

You just performed magic.

Trauma and identity

A very wise woman I know is currently writing a book on working our way through trauma, struggle, loss and pain.  She aptly calls these happenings, “broken places.” In thinking through her material with me she shared the idea of “Identity as a broken place.” I could not agree more!

In addition to the metaphoric use of the term “broken place,” trauma, stress and anxiety literally “break” us down on the level of our DNA. The cortisol and adrenaline that fire and overfire when we go through trauma, when we are overly stressed, when we carry anxiety around as if it a part of who we are, wears out our telomeres. (Telomeres, as you may recall from previous posts, is the goo that caps off our DNA strands when they do their thing and replicate. Without enough goo, our DNA strands begin to fall apart.)

Guess what also does that? Carrying around negative beliefs about ourselves. “When we don’t know who we are we act like someone else,” right? When we don’t know that we are gifted, that we belong, that we deserve wellbeing, we lose our goo! We start to physically fall apart.

That’s just semantics!

Sometimes when I give people their words back to them differently, like in the example above around handling money, they think I’m just “putting a positive spin on it,” or telling them to “think a happy thought.”

“That’s just semantics,” they complain.  “You say potato, I say potahto,” they tell me. Yes.  It IS semantics. And… semantics are magic in the body.  The new way of considering the harmful statement isn’t fiction. Every “re-frame” is based on a more complete truth in the situation.                                                                 

We are not doomed

Fortunately, just as negative stress makes us lose our goo, centering, breathing, remembering who we are builds it back up. See?  I told you, you were a magician.

Truth has the inherent power to heal us, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, and even physically.  The truth about who we are, spoken, carried and owned, can help to heal the damage trauma has done to our identity. 

Use your magic well

We are speaking words that bring life and speaking words that bring death every single day. This is just some woo woo sounding metaphor; This is our biochemical reality. Sometimes we can be so used to thinking of ourselves a certain way, or so used to using different words or phrases “in a lighthearted way,” that we don’t even notice we are poisoning ourselves and others.

Starting today, I challenge you for just one week to notice the words you use to describe yourself. Ask yourself how you would feel about someone using those exact same words when describing a vulnerable child. If it doesn’t sit well with you, I dare you to consider what else is true, and to change your words to something that speaks to that “child’s” full potential and worth. Try this for a week. If you notice anything different, shoot me and email at  I’d love to hear about it!


If  you’re having trouble finding and using the magic inside of you, contact Tiffany here. Let’s talk!