The Power of Language: Stagnation vs. Movement

Dr. Ann-Louise Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP of A New Day Pediatric Psychology is back this week to discuss the power of language, our responses to different words or situations, and what that means in the situation we are all in now. Check out more on this topic from Dr. Lockhart below, and watch the video to hear her go more in-depth!

How important is language? Did you know that language impacts our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors?

How we think is how we are. Our self-esteem comes from language, which comes from our thoughts. It’s all part of the language process.

What does this mean? We tend to pair our language and words with symbols and meanings. A lot of our memories, suffering and joy come from pairing our language with experiences.

For example, when you think of water, what do you think of?

Personally, I think of the beach, crystal clear and blue waters, relaxation. That’s because I’m an island girl and grew up near water and had very positive experiences with it. On the other hand, someone else might think of water and think of a near-drowning experience and not have such fond thoughts or memories of water.

Water in and of itself doesn’t have a negative or positive meaning. It is the association we create between language and experience. We create symbolic representations in our mind related to a specific word.

When people feel triggered by a word, a comment someone makes, a scene in a movie, lines that are read in a book, it’s not because that thing triggers everyone the same way. It is tied to the symbolic representation we place on it.

If we have a negative experience connected to that particular word or image, we will have a triggering response. If we have a positive association with it, we will have a more pleasant response. This is why each of us does not have the same reaction to the same thing.

It all goes back to language. We are not all going to respond in the same way.

The word suffer means “to carry”. It also means “something we are unable to carry”, “a burden”. Suffering means to take on a burden, to hold onto something. It also means something we don’t want to hold onto, something we want to let go, to release. Suffering has this push-pull, ambivalent feeling. It’s like we have two different meanings about the same thing at the same time. We are trying to figure out what that means for us.

During this global pandemic. Some people are experiencing it in a very positive way. I have heard from people who have said because of their job, they were unable to spend a lot of time with their child. Now they can and they love it. They see it as a break from the busy parts of life. Others are miserable. They are saying, “I’m literally home with my kids all the time. I never get a break. They talk non-stop all the time.” It’s the same experience—global pandemic. Most people are home with their kids, but they all have different experiences.

We can perceive things differently because our experiences and perspectives are different. You cannot look at one post and think it relates to everybody. It doesn’t. Our language and how we portray things are different. All of our experiences are valid. Whether you are thoroughly enjoying your time home with your kids or it’s the most miserable experience of your life, it’s all valid. If moment by moment, it changes, because sometimes you adore your kids and other times you want them to go away. They’re all valid.

Whether your experience is positive, negative, or mixed, watch the thoughts you have and watch the language you use. I’m not saying the language needs to be super positive all the time. That’s unrealistic. But, be aware of the thoughts you have. We become and act out the thoughts we have.

All of your thoughts are valid. Don’t allow yourself to stay stuck in the irrational and unhelpful ones for too long. Don’t become the thoughts you think. Thoughts are not facts. They just are. Be aware of your thoughts. Be aware of the thoughts you think. Be aware of your beliefs.

Empathize. Be gentle with yourself. Validate yourself. Don’t’ stay stuck for too long. Allow yourself to move. Stagnation kills, defeats, wears away at your inner being. We are meant to have movement. Movement is life. Movement rejuvenates. It heals. Don’t allow yourself to stay stuck in this time. Know we will get through this. It will get better.