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The ‘tyranny of language’

Forget the ‘tyranny of distance’, what about the ‘tyranny of language’?

We all know that the way we use our language has a great impact on how we feel emotionally. Many of us are currently experiencing ‘remote learning’. What difference would it make if we replaced that term with ‘flexible learning’? The word ‘remote’ makes us feel separate, removed and isolated but the word ‘flexible’ suggests a sense of personal power and adaptability.

Even when alone we maintain an internal dialogue. Imagine that your thoughts create grooves in your brain; the more you think in a particular way the deeper the groove becomes, the more inclined you are to think in that same way. We create a habit of thinking.

If we use a word often enough it becomes a thoughtless habit. A good example of this is when you are asked by a retail assistant in a supermarket “How are you today?” you answer “Fine thanks” regardless of how you are actually feeling. Think on this: If you are not listening to their question with consideration and answering honestly it shows a lack of respect for another person’s attempt to communicate.

If we use negative words we are inclined to feel negative. If we think negative thoughts we are similarly inclined to create an even deeper feeling of dissatisfaction. This can become self-perpetuating making the cycle seem difficult to break.

This brings us back to the Yoga concept of controlling the thoughts not through suppression but by realising that thoughts are sometimes just a collection of words that we have made a habit of running through our mind. Those words are changeable according to our will.

When we recognise that a negative word or thought makes us feel an undesired emotion it is helpful to ‘put a positive spin’ on it or to ‘look on the bright side’.

We have learned that when witnessing a child behaving poorly we no longer say “You are a bad boy” but instead acknowledge to them that “You are a nice boy behaving poorly right now”. This shows the child implicitly that they have power over themselves and creates a feeling of security. Surely we can do the same for ourselves?