I talk with my clients – a lot – about their use of the word “my” when they’re talking about their problems. They often say “My anxiety”, “My depression”, “My aching back”, “My cancer”, “My asthma”, “My anger”, “My failure”, “My low energy”, “My struggle”, “My problem”, etc. (Fill in the blank with your own.)
You might be thinking, “Oh, Anne. You’re making a big deal out of nothing. This is just semantics. They’re only words.”
Really? How often do you get upset with other people for the words they use when they’re talking to you? Taking offense at what they say and assuming all sorts of negative things?
Do you really believe that your body and soul aren’t listening to you? That the words you’re using aren’t leaving an imprint?
Your body and spirit are listening to you and responding to the meaning and energy of the words you use when you talk to yourself.
Saying “my heart attack”, “my fear of public speaking” might leave a more subtle imprint than saying “I look awful today. My hair’s a mess and I’m out of shape”. However as you repeat it again and again the imprint becomes more enduring.
Another thing: possessive pronouns such as “my” show ownership. Why would you want to own anxiety or depression or a backache or failure or a heart attack?
If it’s yours, it’s internal. It belongs to you or it’s in you. When it resides inside you, it can be more difficult to separate your self from the issue or problem and therefore harder to deal with. When it’s part of who you are and how you see yourself, when you identify with it, how can you change that?
When it’s outside of you and not owned by you, not a part of you, it is something that is not a personal failure or permanently dwelling in your being. So you can look at it more objectively, often with less emotional baggage, and deal with it more effectively.
Maybe if you said “My depression” once and never said it again, it might not be a problem. But you’re saying it again and again and again as you talk to yourself and others. And your body and soul are hearing, “This problem is part of us. It’s who we are.”
What’s the alternative? Use “the” or “this” instead of “my”. “This anxiety”, “the depression”, “the heart attack”, “the asthma”, “this anger”, “the failure”, “the debt”, “the low energy”, “this struggle”, “the conflict”.
This is not about abdicating responsibility for dealing with whatever is going on in your life or playing cutesy games with yourself. This is about taking responsibility for how you perceive things, what you tell yourself about them and recognizing how that affects you.
Try this. Say this out loud:
My fear of public speaking prevents me from getting promoted at work.
This fear of public speaking prevents me from getting promoted at work.
I can’t walk very far today because of my arthritis in my knee.
I can’t walk very far today because of the arthritis in my knee. (Yes, it’s your knee.)
By the way, of course you definitely want to say my great idea, my wonderful life, my healthy body, my fabulous cooking, my sense of adventure, my beautiful skin, etc. Absolutely acknowledge and own everything that is positive, life-affirming and magnificent about you.
I’m really happy to be back pounding away at my keyboard and chatting with you. My sincerest apologies because it has been a while since I have connected with you. A couple of things in my life have demanded my full-on attention and focus this summer. I’ll talk about them in an upcoming newsletter.
I have missed our conversations so, as always, let me know how you’re doing and what you need to get your autumn off to a vibrant, fulfilling start. And, yes, they’re conversations because so many of you take the time to give me your feedback. I really appreciate it.
Here is Jim Carrey delivering the commencement speech to the Maharishi University of Management’s graduating class of 2014. He says some really insightful things:
With great warmth,