– Desmond Tutu
“Language is very powerful. Language does not just describe reality. Language creates the reality it describes”
Have you ever stopped to think about how your words influence your world? And more importantly how a simple shift in words can positively affect your world/life experience? Our words influence our thoughts and can affect how we view people…positively and negatively.
Our words can create villains and heroes of the people in our lives.
Our language surrounds us with optimists and pessimists.
And these narratives continue even after someone dies because we will review the relationship and discover things that we wish had been different, better, or more and we lament the unrealized hopes, dreams, and expectations we had for the future.
We end up vilifying them. We choose to remember and focus on their unkind words, the slights, the rejection, every behaviour/situation that left a negative imprint on us.
We end up idolizing them. We choose to remember their unparalleled kindness, their unconditional acceptance, their joy and love and all the amazing times we had together.
These narratives aren’t accurate because of course, no one is all good or all bad. We’re just human…beautiful AND flawed.
The problem starts when we carry the stories of how these people treated us forward into the future. When we begin to expect other people in our lives to treat us the same way. In fact, our nervous systems will actually seek out validation that the stories are true.
It’s like looking at the world through a lens that tries to reinforce that story everywhere you go. And with every close relationship, we repeat the patterns and woundings of the ones we haven’t healed.
Let’s look at a couple of examples so you can see what I mean.
Your Dad dies and your relationship was…shall we say….distant. You can count on one hand the number of times he said, “I love you”. He never said he was proud of you and was often critical of every choice you made. He only ever showed up for things that interested him.
When you don’t complete this grief the stories of rejection, of never feeling good enough, of being unlovable get repeated. You subconsciously haul them with you into your current relationships. It might mean you end up with men in your life who are emotionally unavailable. Or that you’re always seeking validation and approval to quiet that insecurity. You repeat these patterns so your nervous system can validate the stories you’re telling yourself: I AM unloveable. I AM not good enough. I AM someone easy to dismiss. I AM undeserving of love.
Let’s say your Mom dies and you thought she was the perfect shining example of unconditional love. She always knew exactly the right thing to say. She always went out of her way to show that she loved you. She could do no wrong.
When you don’t complete your grief you look for other women who will live up to her impossible saintly example, except no one ever measures up. Or you feel, as a Mom yourself, you can never live up to the standard she set. And the story ends up as fuel for your own perfectionism and shame. Your nervous system looks for ways to validate the stories: I AM never good enough. I AM flawed. I AM unworthy.
How to hijack these stories and stop them in their tracks
You can start to rewrite these stories with a simple shift in words. I jokingly call them my ‘Jedi mind tricks’ but it’s really about being mindful with your words. It all starts here because your thoughts impact your emotions which influence your behaviour. This, in turn, shapes how you view the world and interact with it. If you begin to believe that everyone is like your emotionally unavailable father, then you’ll seek out (and attract) people like him. So, take care with your words and notice how you talk to yourself, and others. Be more mindful of your language and if you notice judgmental or pessimistic language creeping in, try and swap it out with more empathetic or compassionate words.
“I AM” statements are incredibly powerful. They create our reality. They feel permanent as if they’re woven into the fabric of our being. “I FEEL” statements are more temporary. They acknowledge how you’re feeling but they give you room to revise (to be different) later because feelings pass.
So instead of saying, “I AM broken” say, “I FEEL broken” or to be more specific “I am currently experiencing a feeling of brokenness”.
Pay attention to the “I AM” statements you’re using, they’re a clue to the stories of unresolved pain that you’re holding onto.
I AM unlovable -> I FEEL unlovable
I AM helpless -> I FEEL helpless
I AM a victim -> I FEEL victimized
I AM never good enough -> I FEEL not good enough
I AM tired -> I FEEL tired
I AM overwhelmed -> I FEEL overwhelmed
I AM stressed -> I FEEL stressed
The first step is to notice the negative “I AM” statements that fuel your shame and sense of powerlessness. The second step is to reframe them as “I FEEL” statements that give you space and permission to be something else.
If you have unresolved grief that you’d like to heal I invite you to set up a Discovery Call so we can talk about where you are, and where you’d like to be.