Various personal development courses I’ve been on and books I’ve read draw the distinction between two quite separate uses of language: descriptive and creative.
Descriptive language describes the world as we see it: “There’s a car. It’s red.”
Creative language describes the world as we would like it to be, and in the act of declaring it, brings it into being.
Not so many people are fully conscious of the second type of language; still fewer are adept at using it. Sometimes people express scorn or are even offended, referring to creative language as lying, when in fact it simply describes something that doesn’t yet exist. It's only a matter of timing.
It occurred to me that we could simplify understanding if we recognised a new language structure – I’ll call it the prophetic tense – to define when we are using language to create. It’s not the same as the future tense, exactly, although at times it has aspects in common.
Think about it, though, the varying degree of power in statements such as: “I’ll do it this afternoon” – how much faith we put in this depends on our view of the speaker, their tone of voice, the importance of the thing, and to a large extent, our experience of our own integrity. In some instances we take it as absolute fact, relying on it and planning around it. In others, the response is more: "Yeah, right."
I, personally, take my word very seriously, partly because I was born that way, and partly because I know its power relies on my deep unconscious belief in it. If I habitually said things and then didn’t stand by them, then when I used the prophetic tense, I wouldn’t, in a weird way, believe myself. And my sense is that it’s the intensity with which I believe myself when I say I’ll do something, or describe something I see in the future, that makes it so likely to become true.
I'm not saying I'm perfectI’m not saying I’m perfect. I’m acutely aware of the times I’ve failed. Sometimes this has been in one-off instances - some of them big ones, of enormous importance to me, indelibly imprinted on my memory. Some of these I am still working to salvage.
Other times it has happened when I have been stretching myself, perhaps extending my business, taking on larger, more challenging projects, or perhaps moving countries, when logistic detail proliferates. In times of stretch, sometimes things slip through the cracks. I have missed appointments, and forgotten things. I don’t like it, but I’ve learned to be a bit kinder to myself about it: apologise, put plans in place to make it less likely to happen again and get over it.
Other times are more complex – or perhaps, actually less complex – the times when I’ve avoided raw truth for reasons I don’t myself quite understand. My sense is that sometimes this is because of a gap of perception and understanding: the other person is not ready for what I have to say; but at other times, it is simply integrity failure – lying, in black and white terms. Hmmm. Like I said, I’m not perfect…
Coming back to the central point, being true to my word is very important to me, because that is what gives my voice power; that is what tells friends, family, colleagues and clients that they can trust me; and that is what brings my prophetic speaking to life.
How does the prophetic tense work?
So how does it work? Well, in my experience, one of two ways. I may be speaking in traditional future tense: “the books will be published on the 27th”; “I’ll be over to see you the week after next”. Or I may be speaking in the present tense, describing something that is real and vivid before my eyes as I speak, a lived vision, or something I draw up in my imagination as the words form. My experience is that, given time, these things almost always come to pass.
Recognising the use of the prophetic tense is a subtle art, to start with, although it becomes unmistakeable after you’ve been looking for it and spotting it for a while. The voice changes, gets slower, stronger. There’s a profound sense of absolute truth.
Sometimes I use it intentionally, switch into it, deliberately create the future; and sometimes it overtakes me, in a conversation, speaking to someone about things that are important to one or the other of us, or both. It comes from deep inside me, from that place I know as Truth.
And sometimes, I hear it in someone else. It sends shivers up my spine, raises goosebumps. I stop short, take notice, remember. And in a cool moment, a minute or so later, I play back to them what they’ve said. Very often they themselves haven’t realised the significance of the moment.
It’s a miracle when that happens. Big things get acknowledged and planned, not in the to-do list, something-more-to-fill-my-day-with way, but from a deep place of inspiration. It’s magical, miraculous.
Here, I think, lies the deepest power of the human race.
The following is an excerpt from my novel, Law of Attraction, which describes a moment where the prophetic tense is used.
I came back home overflowing with energy. I was booked to go back to Auckland in a fortnight, but in the meantime, I made an offer on the house on the corner and sat down to brainstorm.
Three weeks later I stood in the living room of my new venture, keys still in my hand. Doors were open wide out to the veranda and I could see trees, lawn, and the occasional car going past. I looked around, imagining how it would be, visualising the furniture, the colours, cool neutrals over this awful brown. I love this moment, when everything is possible, where I begin to create the future with my imagination.
Maria came running in. “Mum, Mum, I found a swing!”
I held out my hands. “Come here, Babe, let me tell you what I see.”
- excerpt from Law of Attraction by Jennifer Manson