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Amplifying The Bad

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I woke up this morning wondering if people amplify the bad in their lives out of habit or for some other reason. What I was noticing is that many people use really dramatic language to describe the annoyances, frustrations, and misfortunes that happen in a day, week, or month. Instead of saying “I didn’t like that” or “that made things harder” I hear about “trauma”, “overwhelmed”, “catastrophe”, or “disaster.” If we use those words for our daily struggles how do we then describe floods, famines, starvation, or wars? I’m not saying that people don’t actually experience trauma or disaster, just that we need to be really selective about how we use the words in order to them to have real meaning.

Before you start calling me bad names or thinking bad things about me, hear me out. If you’ve been following this blog you know that I am a fan of the book 14,000 Things to Be Happy About by Barbara Ann Kipfer. That book prompted a lot of thinking about how what we focus on can change our mood. I’ve been trying to implement that in my life and I can say that I see a big difference in my overall daily outlook. So this morning the importance of the more “negative” descriptors became an interesting topic.

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Neuro-linguistic programming has always been fascinating to me. This school of thought considers that there is a connection between our language, thought processes, emotions, and behaviors. Then, by changing our language it can have an an impact on the other areas. Not everyone buys into this, but I see evidence of it every day. In his book Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life Steven C Hayes devotes an entire chapter to the many ways our language can lead to suffering. It just makes sense.

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Then why would we want to tell ourselves that something is a disaster when it is really uncomfortable, challenging, or time-consuming? If I draw from observations in social media I think it could be that these terms are being normalized there. In addition, the more dramatic our language the more attention or support we think we will get. I don’t mean this as an intentional or conscious decision. I think it happens below our level of awareness most of the time. Lastly, those more dramatic labels may serve to distance ourselves from taking personal responsibility. I can’t be held responsible for managing a “disaster” when I am “overwhelmed,” but if I label it as a challenge or a setback it does seem to have more of an expectation to just deal with it. Again, I believe most of this is subconscious processing.

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Why talk about this at all? Because it is possible to change the way we feel by amplifying the good rather than amplifying the bad. I can use even more positive language when describing the good things in my life. Consider the word “happy.” Synonyms include cheerful, joyful, merry, ecstatic, elated, and enraptured. Say those words out loud. Do they have a different feel to you? Use the words that really elevate the mood. How about the word “satisfied?” Instead you could use pleased, proud, contented, fulfilled, gratified.

Lets stop watering down our positive emotions and stop amplifying the bad. It can change your day in amazing and satisfying and exhilarating ways.

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