Watch Your Language!


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Recently, I was inspired by a number of readers, namely Antony W, hcfbutton, and Cymbria Wood, to explore the direct relationship between language and cognition.

In Brave New Mind, I concluded with a number of phrases that are general summations of my newly evolving value system.  Note the tone.  Each word was carefully and purposefully chosen to not only relate an idea, but to convey a greater subliminal message.  In each mantra, I attempted to specifically use positive and definitive language.  While there is still room for interpretation, so it can be generalized to the individual, it excludes negative connotations.

Too often in our world, we are faced with the word “no” “No running”.  “No talking”.  There are two important faults with those statements.  The word “no” attaches an absolute negative generalization to the following action.  Is it never appropriate to run?  Is talking completely forbidden?  That kind of negativity has the potential to generate negative emotion, ranging from anxiety to anger.

In turn, it may prompt undesired behavior.  Those kinds of statements fail to provide any instruction for the appropriate behavior.  So, it becomes subject to any interpretation.  For me, I become anxious to do pretty much anything.  I freeze with indecision and fear.

Me:  What if it’s the wrong thing?  Will I face some sort of punishment because I didn’t fully understand the rule?  What if I don’t do the right thing and I mess up?

Conversely, I had a clever student who had a knack for finding his way around rules.  Through his creative interpretation, the rule “no talking” allowed for other forms of communication.  He would whisper, gestures, and write signs.

In fact, he held up a sign from across the room toward me that read, “This isn’t talking.” (Later, I giggled in private.)

Though brilliant, the message wasn’t clear enough for him.  Any form of communication wasn’t permitted in that situation.  Though he knew that, his actions weren’t technically against the rule, and were not actually punishable.

When faced with negative emotions, some may be prompted to act out.  Personally, if I’m feeling as if I’m being too restricted, I may challenge authority by doing the exact opposite of the rule.  It’s my way of attempting to assert my own authority and regain control over myself and a situation.  I invite the power struggle.

“Don’t take that tone with me.”

Me:  (raising my voice)  “I’ll take any tone I like!”

Needless to say, that last portion is not exactly healthy in terms of developing positive behaviors that defuse unnecessary confrontation and promote functional attitudes.

These scenarios are applicable to our own value systems.  By setting up vague restrictions, we unintentionally invite distressing emotion that incites maladaptive behavior.  Simply put, when we say “no” to ourselves, we can become upset, and that allows us to make poor decisions in how we act.  And because they are so vague, we can’t get sense of what we should be doing instead.  It makes it that much harder to find a positive behavior that works for us.  Then, we become stuck in a cycle of dysfunction.

In the past when I used to crash diet, I would set up stifling rules right down to the letter.  No fast food.  No sweets.  No lazy days, off days, or cheat days.  If I strayed from the rules, I would punish myself by wearing myself to the bone with painful exercise.  Eventually, it became so oppressive that I would reinterpret the rules to suit me.  Finally, I would quit, because it just became too hard and inconsistent.

That cycle of dysfunction starts to prompt thoughts like, “I can’t” or “I’ll never”, which can make a person feel helpless and hopeless.  It hinders any further action toward a goal, because we convince ourselves that we tried, we failed, and we can never make it work / happen.

By using positive language with ourselves, we can alter our own cognition to automatically generate positive thoughts, beliefs, and statements.  Here a few “rules” I use to develop more positive language:

Attempt to avoid commands.

I can say without any doubt that there isn’t a single person who enjoys being constantly ordered to do things.  It makes me angry.  I see commands as demands for actions, like a person would do to a doll or puppet.  If I don’t demand things from myself, I am certainly not going to allow others to do it.

Instead of using the word “no”, find the antonym to the following action and use a description as an alternative.

In my classroom, I developed a set of expectations (not rules) that excluded the word “no”.  Instead of “No running”, I used the phrase, “We use walking feet in the classroom”.  It spelled out the expectation exactly without being restrictive.

Use language that eliminates unnecessary apologies and uses statements of fact that relate.

Have you ever found yourself constantly apologizing for things that aren’t your fault?  For instance, someone tells you of their own misfortune and you reply, “I’m so sorry.”  Why are we being apologetic when it’s clearly not our fault?

The problem is the message that it conveys.  In being apologetic, we are unintentionally sending the message that we will accept blame for things that aren’t our fault.  It’s pretty much the same as saying, “Please, I want to be your doormat.”

Instead, a person could say, “That’s very unfortunate” or “What incredible pain you must be in”.

Use statements of intention rather than requests for permission (when applicable).

The problem is how we are conditioned as children.  Our whole world revolves around consent.  When we become adults, we have a certain difficulty with asserting our own personal authority.

I recently learned that I do not need permission to live my life.  In fact, I don’t require anyone’s consent to say or do most things.  I am an adult, and I have authority over myself and my actions.  By using questions, I am willfully passing my own authority over to someone else.

For example, instead of asking, “May I use the restroom?”, it can be rephrased as, “I need to use the restroom” or “I’m going to use the restroom”.  In that language, a person asserts their right to perform a bodily function.

Again, when applicable.

Rephrase accusatory statements, even if they can be substantiated

Most statements that begin with “you” and end in a negative phrase are typically accusatory.  “You did…” and “You are…”  Offer a suggestion instead.  “You can…” is far more empowering and avoids passing blame.  Most people will avoid blame at all costs.

Through practicing positive language, functional attitudes begin to form.  Constructive progress becomes evident, and that promotes personal growth.  As growth advances, we can begin to make additional improvements to our value systems to generalize to other aspects of our lives.  That way, we can be better prepared to face future challenges, and feel empowered to succeed in our pursuits.

From mind to mouth, we can make a difference, one word at a time.

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33 thoughts on “Watch Your Language!

  1. Such a great post, and so true too. It does matter how we use language. Especially if we’re using it to put ourselves or others down. That’s not good motivation for anything – it certainly hasn’t worked for me. Also, I love your site design – not sure how long you’ve had it, but it’s cool.

    • Maybe in past years, the “sticks and stones” saying worked out fine. But, I suspect it didn’t. Words are damaging! They can be even more powerful than fists. We can see that with teen suicides as a result of bullying.

      If mean words can be enough to drive someone to take their own life, why would we subject ourselves to that? As people who have experienced suicidal ideation, why would we do it to anyone else? I think it’s really just a matter of not knowing how else to handle it. Or maybe even thking that there isn’t another way. (You know how it can be when that voice starts going.)

      I’m super glad you liked it. I think I want to get even more in depth about language and intrusive thoughts. But, you know how writing is. It’s really time intensive!

  2. Great post. I’m a NeuroLinguisticProgramming (NLP) practitioner. We work specifically with language patterns and the brain’s response to them. Ever notice how when the sign says “No….(anything)” your brain immediately raises its hackles and says, “Says who? No running? I’m gonna run. No smoking? Where’s the lighter (wait a minute, I don’t even smoke; no matter, give me one anyway.” But if the sign says, “WALK.” Our brain says, Oh, OK, walking is what I’m doing. Fascinating stuff!

    • I actually laughed when I read the part about the smoking! It’s so true. I feel challenged when I’m reading a sign that outlaws something. I don’t mind the signs that thank me for refraining, like “Thank you for not smoking.” Well, you’re welcome.

      Up until now, I’ve never heard of NLP. How does it work exactly? I’d love to learn more about it.

      • Literally, NLP works by sussing out how language trips our brain’s switches on a pre-verbal level, kind of like hypnosis, which is very close to NLP and often studied by NLP practitioners. The theory is that deep-seated psychological issues can be addressed and healed by the practitioner’s using language that triggers non-verbal events in the client’s brain. The client is often unaware of the process. A good NLP practitioner can have a casual conversation and effect all kinds of changes in the brain of the person they’re talking with. When I was in training I used to practice on everybody I talked with. My (brilliant) son caught on, and when I was heading in that direction he would narrow his eyes and say, “Mama, are you trying to NELP me?” So it’s language very much on one side and not at all on the other. Fascinating stuff.

        • This is really brilliant. What was so strange for me was one of the most significant cognitive changes I have ever been through. Once I started flipping the thoughts, the blocks on things started disappearing. I was able to spontaneously get to the root of every distress almost immediately. And even when I wouldn’t enjoy the answer, I would feel immediate relief. I understood what was going on in there, and I knew that I had the tools to fix it.

          For instance, I was meditating as an exercise in a recent martial arts class. I regularly meditate, but I found this meditation difficult. I had been having trouble in class, and I thought that it was a result of not keeping consistent practice, maybe some kind of backslide. I was getting frustrated that I couldn’t even seem to get the meditation techniques correct.

          And then, it just popped into my head. “You’re afraid that you’re getting it wrong.” I didn’t even have to go into what mechanism in my mind spawned that. I just flipped it. “There is no such thing as wrong.” The tenseness of my body released, and the rest just fell away.

          The mechanism is tied in with perfectionism bred from the pain of criticism and fear of failure. I’ve already sought to dislodge those things by adopting incompatible values. Seeking the end product prevents a person from truly learning throughout the journey. Criticism doesn’t imply some kind of failing, but is feedback from our external world that we can apply as we see fit. Failure is just a negative word for “incomplete”.

        • Beautiful. What you just demonstrated is an example of what NLP would call “reframing.” A mentor of mine would call it “holding paradox.” She says that if we can hold paradox we can really “get” it and have the potential to access inner meaning and facilitate accomplishment in the “real world. “

        • I am so glad that a professional developed this. What I’m confused about is why isn’t it more popular? It’s an incredible way to incorporate both cognitive therapies and behavioral therapies into one. I really look forward to studying this. I’ve really been working on getting my head back into the world of psychology.

        • Here’s an article on the origins of NLP http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuro-linguistic_programming It’s taken off and grown and branched out into places the originators could not have imagined. It’s a very powerful multi-disciplinary movement that now includes “Brain Gym,” EMDR, and just about any other neurologic reprogramming modality you can think of.

  3. Great stuff. I’m going to work on putting more of this into practice with my kids. Your “walking feet” in the classroom and students finding ways around the rules reminded me of something that I experienced at my child’s school library. Volunteering there one day I saw a boy skipping across the room and I said, “walking feet, please.” He kept on skipping and replied, “but I’m not running”.

    • Thanks for reading! Kids are pretty clever. I find myself wondering how they are so creative. And then I come right back to a fact my son taught me. Kids have nothing else to do in their entire day other than wear and wait their parents out. That is, unless they are given constructive and challenging tasks.

      I try to avoid using the word “please”, though. One of the hardest lessons I learned as a parent is that I have to assert my authority, or my kid will assume he’s in charge. Kids use the word “please” to stress the importance of a request. “Please” to a kid means that the instruction was actually a request, and therefore optional. When given the option, kids will do what they feel like.

      It’s good to see a kid challenging authority, though. Even though it is beyond frustrating for us adults, it is actually a great exercise for kids. They get a chance to understand firm rules and soft rules. And they also get a sense of when it’s okay to assert themselves, and when it’s not. I think it’s a critical exercise in their social development and identity.

      • I feel that it is important for my kids to have choices in most things and that I am making optional requests. We all have choices in everything we do each day. We understand what happens if we choose not to go to work or feed the neighbors dog we promised to look after while they are on vacation. Having clear and consistent consequences for the choices my kids make is the key.

        Here is an example from earlier this week. Me: “it’s time to clean your room. Will you go do that, please?” Daughter: “No, I don’t want to.” Me: “Okay. If you choose not to clean your room that’s fine. But you are choosing to have no more tv and computer time today, and no dessert.” I walk away as she attempts to argue. Daughter: “FINE!”. She slams the door, yells a bit about hating chores, and then cleans her room.

        • I like how you started the request with a statement, though. Telling her that it’s time to do it gives her the ground rule that it has to be done. Asking about it gives her the option of time. You broke it up very nicely. And I really think that it’s exceptional parenting!

          And I like what you had to say about the consistency. Consistency is so vital in parenting. As an educator, I can tell you that it’s the number one thing that I can see missing in parenting. It’s that much difficult in homes with multiple adults, even if they aren’t married. Two adults might not agree on child rearing. It sabotages both styles of parenting when two caretakers aren’t on the same page. And it puts a strain on any relationship between caretakers, married or not.

          My son has autism, so spelling out consequences is a little more difficult. Most of the time, he doesn’t really understand societal rules and natural consequences of his actions. He really has to see it in action to get it. For instance, I can spell out consequences of him not keeping his room clean. But, he doesn’t really seem to get it, because it’s not immediate.

          He does understand that we don’t throw toys, because they could break or he could hurt someone. He nailed me in the face with a die cast Thomas train one time. (That hurts soooo much). I grabbed my face and started crying. I almost never cry, and he ran up to me asking, “Are you alright, Mommy?! I’m sorry, Mommy!” Coming from a child with a speech delay, that’s incredible. He really only has about three word combinations, and mostly they’re not complete sentences. It was almost enough for me to stop being upset about being hit in the face!

        • As if parenting wasn’t hard enough already! Your difficulty setting is dialed up a couple extra notches. Good on you for all your work and all you do. I appreciate your thoughtful responses.

        • I have to say, it is more difficult in some ways, but less in others. It’s different. He’s verbal and social, even if those domains are delayed. I remember my brother was way less verbal at the age of seven than my son. Beast (my pet name for him) could be a lot more delayed.

          Since he has delays, his development is a little uneven. He is currently developing social behavior and imagination. (Not surprising that they coincide. In typical development, they go hand in hand). He held up one of my white blouses today and said, “Mommy, look it’s a pirate! I want a pirate!” He handed me the shirt and looked at me proudly. I got it. He didn’t want to have a pirate. He wanted to be a pirate! Ha!

          There is one thing that is very special about having a kid with a developmental delay. Kids grow up so fast, and all of the wonderful moments go by in a blink. I’m probably not able to have anymore children, so it’s been kind of nice to be absolutely thrilled by every first. It brings an appreciation to parenting that I personally might not have otherwise.

          Thanks so much for reading. I can’t tell you how nice it’s been to have another parent to talk to. I’m a younger parent amongst my friends, so, well, I don’t have any friends who are parents yet! I talk to other parents as a teacher, but those parents can never really see beyond the professional. It’s great to be able to talk about parenting in a nonprofessional, noncompetetive kind of way!

  4. Another great post. I used to be like your young student that you mentioned when I was in grade school. I’m glad to now know that I was simply thinking outside the box rather than being a clown haha

    • I have to say that I really enjoyed having that student. His way of thinking was incredible. I gave the rules to our “Tower Building” challenge. They were only allowed to use the materials given to them in the effort to build the tallest tower of all of the groups. He asked me, “You said we could use glue, right?” I responded, “Yes, it’s in the materials list.” “Does this count?” he asked, and he propped the glue bottle up against the tower. I actually laughed out loud. It was genius.

      His group actually won. He had so much ingenuity!

      It’s difficult for a teacher to admit when a student has bested them. I never tell the kids when they have, but I can admit it to myself. I never really discourage it either. I hope that they can keep that kind of thinking for the rest of their lives. It’s that kind of thinking that makes the impossible possible!

      • You sound like the best teacher ever. So many instructors fall into the trap of “enforcing” rather than “teaching”. I’m glad to see that there’s still hope haha

        • What’s strange is the ego that seems to develop with it. I’ve heard way to many teachers say things like, “I’m the teacher, so I’m the boss.” It’s almost hilarious, if it weren’t kind of odd at the same time. Why would arguing with a child and winning be fulfilling? It spells a kind of lack of maturity, I think.

  5. I just found your blog yesterday and the few posts that I have read so far have been really interesting to me. Two close family members are bipolar and one of them underwent CBT several years ago to try to understand where certain negative thought patterns came from and to try to change them. Her progress since has been significant. After more than 10 years on several types of medication, she had recently been able to come of anti-depressants and she seems to cope far better with stressful situations.

    Her experience has led me to question a lot of negative messages that we take for granted on a daily basis. Your example of dieting struck a cord with me as that’s the frist place I tried to make positive changes. I’ve struggled with my weight for most of my life and did the ‘no sweets’, ‘no beer’, ‘no carbs’ thing. As you point out, this is restrictive and encourages rebellion. I changed this thought pattern gradually to ‘I nourish my body with healthy, natural food’. The more I reinforced this message to myself, making good choices for my body, the more I found myself naturally avoiding things that were processed and sugary. I still drink and still eat chocolate from time to time. But I will naturally go back to eating healthy foods after this. I will find myself craving them. I put a lot more care into making meals now and I really enjoy eating healthy food because it’s a positive choice and not a negative restriction.

    The point about classroom rules is a very good one. Definitely something i will have to change in my own classroom. Thanks again.

    • I am absolutely thrilled that this resonated with you! You really get it, and I’m so glad that I could’ve written something that gets the message out there!

      Therapeutic techniques such as CBT and DBT are really brilliant. What they really lack is the ABA (behavioral) applications. That’s the component that takes thought and puts it into action. It’s also the one that sustains the behavior and generalizes it to other situations.

      It’s so wonderful to hear that your relative has much such incredible progress. There are too many horror stories that exist about failed attempts that discourage others from making the attempt. I know I’ve been discouraged myself by my own misadventures in therapy.

      What I came to eventually understand is that I was lacking two very important things when I was in therapy. First, I was being treated for the wrong disorder due to a misdiagnosis. That means the medication wasn’t effective, and my symptoms weren’t being treated as well as they could have been. Second, I was taking it as “advice” instead of “science”. And I eventually developed the attitude of, “How can you help me when you really have no idea what I’m going through?”

      Granted, I was in my teens and had no idea what was involved in the schooling the professionals go through. I would have appreciated the therapy more if I would have understood it as a whole and respected the therapist as a professional.

      While traditional therapy isn’t for me, I still use therapeutic techniques in my everyday life. Disorder or not, I think they have useful tools that everyone should learn to cope with difficult situations.

      Chances are, you and I are on the same page of being deluded with dysfunctional attitudes toward living. Society taught me that I really had to follow the rules and put my nose to the grindstone if I ever wanted to get anything accomplished. It is a rigid and extremist attitude that doesn’t allow for flexibility to accommodate the individual. And because of the implicit threat that I would fail if I deviated, I had the idea that I was going wrong because I wasn’t following things to the letter.

      (I’m sitting here eating pizza for breakfast and guzzling down soda as I’m writing. Today is my cheat day, I’ve decided).

      I have also struggled with a weight problem my entire life. I’ve never been “thin”. I’m hardly within the “healthy” BMI right now, and I’m at one of my lower adult weights.

      Diet is best sustained not only by results, but by how it makes a person feel, in the physical sense. Restrictive dieting not only restricts the unhealthy things like saturated fats and simple carbs, but the necessary vitamins and nutrients that we need to live.

      No carb, no fat, low cal diets don’t have a lot to give on the nutritional side. There is a such thing as a “good carb” and a “good fat”. And those things really weigh in on the calorie side, so it’s unlikely that a “dieter” would willingly consume them.

      I love your attitude toward weight loss. It’s not about weight loss. It’s about doing right by your body. We only get one, and modern medicine can only do so much. Besides, why would we want to take medication when we can do it naturally?

      When a doctor pushed for me to start on cholesterol medication at 25, I flat out refused. My results weren’t that high, and I would likely be taking that medication for the rest of my life. Medication isn’t like vitamins. We aren’t really replacing things that we don’t have in our bodies with medications. Medications just try to alter our body chemistry by putting in foreign chemicals.

      The best “dieting” (and I use that term loosely, because dieting really implies that it’s a temporary fix toward eating to resolve a weight problem) is about altering our food intake to suit our physical needs. You’re absolutely right. We are nourishing our bodies. The only reason why obesity is such an epidemic is because there isn’t enough education about healthy nutrition.

      I could use this point to launch into how a person isn’t just naturally obese, and how much I detest this positive wave of acceptable attitudes toward obesity. Why are we encouraging it? But, I won’t. Some people really find it offensive. Instead, I’ll use this as a point to spell out that it’s about the individual. Doctors would have me believe that my “healthy” weight is about fifteen pounds thinner than I am. I know that I’m a stout woman. I am barrel chested, and I’ve got a set of D’s hanging off of my rib cage. I’m just not meant to be “thin”. But, that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t aim to have my BMI under 25. I just shouldn’t expect to have it at 21 either.

      I know that I’m a pretty active person. I have a job that requires me to be on my feet for most of the day. I’m a parent to a preschooler. And I practice martial arts three or more times a week. Restricting my calories too much may put my body into starvation mode, and my body would start to eat muscle instead of fat. Not very healthy. And because I’m a little more active than most women, I require a lot more protein and complex carbohydrates.

      I also have to remember that inches count too. Just because my weight goes up a little doesn’t mean I’m gaining fat. If I’m still losing pants sizes, chances are I’m gaining more muscle. Muscle development is a very positive change for my body. It will help me carry myself more easily and give myself more energy to work with.

      LOL, sorry that’s so long. Proper nutrition is so important to me, and it surprises me that so little of it is known to the general public. I personally recommend anyone who is seeking to “lose weight and gain muscle” (which is always the motivation for major lifestyle changes such as dieting) go and see a dietician. The dietician can really help, and they can provide blood tests to see if there are any vitamin deficiencies that would complicate a dietary change.

      • I agree. I dislike the attitude of embracing obesity. It’s not a healthy, natural human state for most people. It’s a fairly recent phenomenon in human history and with it have come many related health issues. Soem of them pretty serious. A small proportion of obese people are perfectly healthy, eat well and exercise. Some find they have a metabolic disorder or hormone imbalance and weight control is almost impossible. But for many, it’s the result of a cycle of abuse towards their bodies. This stems from unhealthy mental attitudes. Lack of respect for their body and learned unhealthy attitudes towards food. Using food as reward or punishment. This is a cycle that i used to be caught in. I felt I ‘deserved’ daily treats of chocolate, regular meals out, take aways when I was too tired to cook. And it all added up. It causes health problems and can often contribute to depression, low self-esteem etc.

        I am not really a believer in BMI either though. I find it to prescriptive to say ‘based on our calculations, this is what your weight ‘should’ be’. Why does there have to be a should? BMI doesn’t work for everybody. Some people are naturally very muscular, therefore heavier. If they are also short, they may fall into an ‘unhealthy’ BMI range. Or if they are naturally large breasted, like yourself, they may have a BMi which is deemed to high.

        I don’t like to follow strict advice like food pyramids, five a day. Why five? How did they reach that number? Why no four or six? Plus, the number of calories a day for the average woman or man. How do they reach this? Who among us is exactly average? We are all different with varying heights, shapes, ages, appetites, metabolisms. Why should we all follow exactly the same food plan? As soon as I realised this and thought more about which foods made my body feel good and which foods made it feel sluggish. What times of day were good for me to eat. What portion size left me full but not too stuffed. When I listened to my own body and tried to make it feel good, I lost more weight. I also began to notice it in other people. I noticed that my sister often complained of stomachache after eating bread or apples. It turned out she had a gluten intolerance. The ‘healthy whole grains’ and the apple a day she had been eating were not agreeing with her. But she couldn’t believe it even when she felt the evidence of it because these foods are ‘good for you’.

        I don’t stick strictly to my diet the whole time. Sometimes I’m in a rush and I will have a snack or quick meal which may not be my ideal of healthy food. or sometimes I go out drinking or order pizza. I still have a bit of a belly but it’s the smallest it’s ever been. Having lost some weight I now feel less self conscious exercising and I (mostly) have more energy. I am still working out what is proper nutrition for me and what makes me feel healthy.

        In South Korea where I live, they take health very seriously. My Korean friends will often try to tempt me out for a meal at a certain restaurant or to try a specific trype of food with the words ‘but it’s very good for your health.’ I didn’t hear this often enough when i was living in England. Losing weight was usually at the forefront of my mind which led me to feel guilty if I strayed from my diet. In Korea, health and which foods are best for your health is often at the forefront of people’s minds. When I first arrived, I liked this attitude. I liked going out to enjoy food because it was healthy and good for my body.I tried to embrace their attitude of enjoying feeding my body well. It’s only since then that the weight has started to come off.

        • As for the CBT. She was in her mid-thirties when she went through it. I’m not sure if she would have had a similar experience to you if it had happened in her teens. But at the age she went though it, it seemed to click for her. At first she was angry and confused about some relationships in her life. She went through periods of withdrawal. But after a while, she began to understand the techniques and was able to use them when she could feel some of her more irrational thoughts taking over. I know it will always be something she struggles with but I think CBT gave her some useful tools to help her cope when life starts to get on top of her.

        • When I think of all of the people out there with disorders that make weight management difficult, I feel distraught for them. They are the people who probably feel the negative impact of unhealthy media messages the most. Most of those people are genuinely trying to live healthy lifestyles, and are really fighting an uphill battle. Those people need support and encouragement in their efforts.

          I agree that unhealthy weight comes from unhealthy attitudes toward eating. Sometimes, it’s also a result of an unintentional hedonist style of eating. You were talking about being too tired to cook. So, that encourages most people to grab something quick. And mostly, those foods are not healthy. Something that’s filled with simple carbs (sugar, white bread, etc) will quickly release sugar into the bloodstream, and resolve the body’s low sugar problem that it’s been freaking out about. While immediately satisfying, it often releases too much sugar, and makes a person feel sluggish later. And that is how weight is gained. I call it, “Sugar cycling”, which is raising blood sugar too fast and then having it crash soon after. That causes a person to dive right back into unhealthy eating habits.

          Blood sugar affects moods directly. I’ve always theorized about it, but I had an opportunity to witness it for myself when I had a student develop type 1 diabetes. When his sugar was crashing, he would become angry and have outbursts. Conversely, if his blood sugar was too high, we could become groggy and even kind of depressed. That sleepiness would make it harder for him to get his sugar under control through exercise.

          I’m sure that you’re part of the generation that had the old food pyramid taught to us. Did you know that they recently revised the old food pyramid? It turns out that the things they taught us as children about nutrition were actually incorrect. I don’t know if your family did this, but it was a common thing for parents to push milk on their children. “You can’t have any seconds until you finish your milk.” Now, doctors are advising that milk is actually just an unnecessary filler that robs children of other nutrients that can be found in other foods. Water is recommended for children to drink above all else.

          With the constant revisions to nutritional standards, why should I believe that the government actually knows what they are talking about? That stuff is junk, in my opinion.

          It’s awesome to hear that you live in South Korea. I actually take a Korean form of martial arts. Admittedly, many of my new values were rooted in those teachings. I’m even learning Korean as a curriculum requirement.

          Ko map sum ni da for your insight and sharing your personal experience! I think that your cultural experience and personal knowledge of dietary habits would be invaluable to the blogging community.

        • To be honest, I don’t think that the full benefit of any kind of cognitive therapy can be experienced in adolescent years. First, many adolescents are still engaging in asserting their independence in their lives. And mostly, this ends up in a power struggle with many authority figures. Teens are still in the developmental stages of their lives, and their brain chemistry is naturally different from that of an adult. Also, they lack the real world experience of an adult, and probably will not be able to utilize those techniques effectively.

          Realistically, I think that any teen experiencing disorder would probably benefit more from ABA therapy. However, they would need their parents to be on board with it.

  6. Brilliant post! I completely agree. I think so many people get locked into believing that language is out of their control, that the rules of its use are fixed by some nebulous ‘they’ authority. But language has always been a dynamic force that has evolved alongside our cultures from its very beginning. Just look at the differences in phrasing and general use in different parts of the world – astonishing.

    We need to take back our personal power over language. People follow leaders, and we all have the opportunity to be leaders in language, because it originates within our brains. And last time I checked, that’s a fairly private sphere of influence. It’s also fertile grounds for experimentation. Just as Newton learned about sight by prodding behind his own eyeball (I can’t believe I just used this comparison lol), we can play to our hearts content with our internal monologues and processes of cognition. Then, once we’ve found a positive, successful model for our own use, we can bring it out and try it out in the ‘real world’ as you’ve done. Bravo!!

    • Language across cultures is an incredible eyeopener. In most languages, there are formal and informal usages of words and phrases. In English, it seems as if the lines have blurred. We don’t really understand what would be considered “respectful language”. In the days of old, ma’am and sir would be used to address adults as a way of conveying respect. I remember once being offended when someone called me “ma’am” as opposed to “miss”, because I thought it implied something about my age. I completely missed the part about polite speech.

      Since I started in my line of work, I started to develop the attitude that adults are role models for children, whether we like it or not. Children develop their skills through modeling. So, if we’re modeling undesirable language, like disrespect and self-loathing, children will pick up on this.

      But, it extends beyond children. Adults take social cues, just as children do. We all adapt our behavior to each situation. You’re right. We need to take back our power over language. We all have the ability to be leaders, because we all have the same ability to assert our own personal leadership. We should be setting an example.

      The concept of leadership sounds pretty heavy, because it does require a certain amount of responsibility. But, if we seek to change the world, then we have the responsibility to set the example and carve our own path. Maybe, it will inspire others to follow and develop their own sense of leadership and responsibility.

      • You’re posts are certainly inspiring me! It must be wonderful to have a laboratory at work for seeing the effects of your ideas in real time with real kids. I don’t mean that they are lab rats or anything like that! Jeepers no! Just that you can see your courage and positivity reflected as influence. ps. And don’t worry about being misconstrued as ‘preachy’ or, heaven forbid, ‘new-agy’ (the horror lol). There’s no soap-box here, just a woman discovering (and sharing) the power she has to make her brain work for her rather than against her.

        • Lulu: See Janet Dougherty’s work on language acquisition. It’s from the ’80’s but still very relevant. She was my linguistics prof in grad school, and my thesis advisor too!

        • The way you write always gets a little giggle out of me. “The horror”, LOLOL! It IS such a horror! I remember starting out in martial arts, and the culture was so different that I was a little put off. As an American geographically located in the Northeast, we are really under the influence of the general cynicism and surly demeanor that Northeasterner are infamous for. So, the Eastern cultures and values that are expressed in martial arts conflicted with my own cultural attitudes.

          There are so many examples. The bowing was awkward and there is so much of it. Bowing in American culture is an indication of an inferior position. In the Eastern cultures, it is a symbol of respect. We often address each other as “Sir” or “Ma’am”, not “Miss”. As a younger American woman, I found it kind of insulting first, as I perceived it as an indicator of age. It’s not. It’s a respectful way to address someone.

          And that’s the key right there. Respect. (I have a whole article coming for this). Respect for everyone, regardless of rank. Respectful acknowledgement of achievement of the black belts, instructors, masters, and grandmasters. Even, respect for our training space.

          I have a whole article in the works about this, so I’ll spare you.

          I love having the lab! But, I would like to think of it more as an exercise space. Just like I have a training space for martial arts, I have a training space to exercise my mind and values. Admittedly, it’s difficult to put those ideas into practice. Especially with certain cultural differences.

          It’s interesting when I hear children rejecting positive attitudes. I have to wonder why. Children are, for the most part, little lumps of clay, still in the process of being moulded and shaped by those around them. Sure, they have their own temperaments, as we all do, but aren’t children supposed to have nice thoughts and aspirations?

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