How the words we use help us to hold onto our problems..
When just flicking through my work diary and looking back at 2016, I was amazed to see how much I have done during this year; events I have held, wonderful people I have met, stories I have heard, clients I have worked with and issues I have campaigned upon. I am looking back realising just how much more I know and understand, even from this time last year. Looking back and taking stock led me to consider; If I really had to choose -
What is the most important thing I have learned this year?
And here is where it gets challenging, to put something that I feel I know down into words. I might start by saying that as I look back at this past Year, I might try to sum it up, I might say for example that was a 'mad year' or a 'busy year' or a 'difficult year' or a 'great year'.....but yet wasn't it so much more than that one word? Didn't it involve 365 sleeps, dinners, conversations, sad thoughts, happy moments, hard days, times that required courage....hundreds of thousands of moments and billions of new connections within my body and brain? So how could I possibly reduce this down into one word? either happy OR sad good OR bad. But yet this is what we do all the time, this is what I see clients doing all the time and it is what keeps their mind 'stuck' in the problem. They turn what was and is a moving changing process into a fixed idea in their mind.
Explain....What are you talking about Aisling?
Well let me dig a little deeper. It is said that Inuit cultures had many different words for snow, to allow them to describe the many different subtleties of it that were important in their lives (and in Irish too, many different words for the type of rain and how water flows). Whereas to us it would be 'its snowing' or 'not snowing' a clear cut category.
What we do all to often is we turn what is a verb: a doing word and we make it sound like a fixed thing. In NLP terms this is called a 'Nominalisation.'
Why this is so important is that when something is in a fixed category in our mind then we forget to consider that we can do something to change it.
Examples of Nominalisations:
"It's just my Life right now" Life is actually the process of Living. So how might you prefer to be living differently?
"It's my relationship, its no good" Relationship is actually the process of Relating. How might you like to be relating to this person now?
"I had such a bad day" Was really every second of your day 'bad' or has your brain accidentally categorised it all as bad?
"I am bulimic" But aren't you so much more than that?
"I am a smoker" You 'do smoking' as a habit, but if you are on 10 a day and each one takes 3 minutes then you have 23.5 hours per day where you are not a smoker...
Feelings also change moment to moment, but we also often nominalise them as well. This becomes even more interesting when it comes to emotions that people are seeking help with. I so often hear from clients unhelpful statements about how they are feeling such as:
"I have anxiety" anxiety is not a fixed physical solid thing, yet this wording can confuse us that it is. Or even more unhelpful; being told by someone else that you have 'social anxiety disorder' or 'generalised anxiety disorder.' Having a nominalised label such as this takes away our power and misses the fact that in order to create anxious feelings and thoughts within our body we have to be doing a process unconsciously which keeps us feeling them.
For example for someone to say to me 'I have Anxiety all the time' then they have to ignore all the moments of the day when they feel good, or when they laugh- even for a moment, they have to pay attention to things that make them feel anxious, have to remember things from the past and bring it into their minds 'Now', they have to think ahead of now and imagine bad things that haven't happened yet. By reducing it into a fixed thing that you either have or you don't ignores the complexities or what is happening, and most importantly- what you can do about it right now.
How else can this be important?
We do this is language all the time, even with children, I heard parents the other day telling a friend that their child was 'a bad sleeper' THIS is an example of a nominalisation: sleeping is a verb and it is a process, not a fixed thing. When I asked a few questions, it turns out that actually their child is excellent at sleeping, but takes time to actually fall asleep. Yet now this child has been labelled in a category and now have this idea in their own mind.
The word 'diet' too comes into my mind, the use of diet makes it sound like a fixed thing, and the problem is with that is that for you to hold the idea of 'this new diet I am on' you must also hold the idea of 'not dieting'...such a fixed goal introduces the idea of failure from the beginning. What would be better? Something more fluid such as I am eating more healthily? or I am taking more care over what I eat, that sounds more like a goal that would last. Think in your own day, how many times you turn a changing process into a fixed thing, just through the use of unsuitable language and Nominalisation.
SO let's get rid of looking at the 'year' as a whole I am going not look at the outer cover of my diary and judge it by that but am looking at each day and event written within it. Each day and each achievement, great and small. Be aware of your language and how you may be turning things that are a changing process (verbs) into fixed statements or nouns.
My biggest learning from 2016, all we are is changing, all the time.
Love becomes Loving.
How could you be loving living more this year?
If you need to help yourself find different ways of looking at the world around you this January, then get in touch here.