Words Matter: Mindful Dialogue
Certain terminology, most often related to mental or physical health, and human living conditions, has become a part of our everyday language. I have observed that the use of these terms is often expressed based on a particular and even exaggerated trait of the actual definition or a limited social understanding of the meaning or condition.
Without either a true understanding or knowledge of the very real experiences of those living in challenging circumstances or with serious diagnoses, there is the potential for further social misunderstanding and minimization of these realities through desensitization. Consciously or unconsciously, the more flippant use of these terms contributes to this.
The following are just some of the terms that I have heard exhaustively in everyday conversation. Sometimes they are expressed in the first person and other times they are projected onto others:
- I am so ADD. Are you really? Or are you just distracted or over multitasking today?
- I was so traumatized. Breaking the heel of your shoe is not traumatizing. It may be scary in the moment or disappointing, it is not traumatizing. The term PTSD is also commonly thrown around in response to something unexpected.
- I am so depressed. You are bummed out, you had a bad day, something did not go your way. You do not live with depression.
- S/he is such a narcissist. We are all narcissistic. There is a spectrum. When someone exhibits one or a few of these characteristics occasionally or as a pattern, the more relevant term might be “jerk.” When people use the term narcissist, they are generally referring to extreme narcissism or NPD, which if understood, would not be dropped so casually.
- #gaslighting I recently read a Facebook thread in which someone had responded in a manner clearly projecting his interpretation of someone else’s situation. The response to this post was simply the term “gaslighting.” Simple projection is not gaslighting. Gaslighting is a very serious form of abusive manipulation.
- I am so Dyslexic. You made an error, or mixed up your vowels because you were tired. You do not have Dyslexia.
- I am starving. I have yet to see a person without regular access to food use the word starving, despite its possible aptness. Every sign I have witnessed, held by someone who is homeless, uses the term hungry, not starving.
- I am homeless. I am practically homeless. I am going to be homeless. Do you have a roof over your head and a place to sleep? Being in transition does not equate to homelessness.
- I don’t have any money. This means different things to different people. What is your truth? Do you not want to spend your money/invest in yourself, or do you literally not have any money?
- I almost had a heart attack/heart failure/a stroke. No one almost has these conditions. You would know if you did. These phrases are commonly used in response to a surprising, or new situation.
- I was practically suicidal. Speaking to something that did not go your way or disappointed you is very different from actually being suicidal.
In addition to a lack of understanding or desensitization, I assess that much of our use of exaggerated or inappropriate terms and expressions comes back to wanting to be heard. Where might you better trust yourself to express things as they are? When you find yourself using such exaggerated terminology or a similar phrase or term that is outside of your truth, can you find a space of gratitude for what you are experiencing/your current reality?
We are living in a time in which we are being called to a higher consciousness and a greater awareness of our interconnectedness. Words are generative. If your words are not true, what are you creating and to what energy are you contributing for yourself, for others and the world? Be mindful of your words, express the truth of your own experience, and trust that you will be heard.
Lower the drama. Raise the vibration.