Language is the first glimpse into the mind. The language we use (and the vocabulary we learn) changes with us as we grow, but also begins to shift with our own emotions. From feelings of fear lending itself towards the selection of smaller, more concise words to anger creating, let’s say an unapologetically direct use of words, language serves as a window to the mind’s resting homeostasis. The language we choose, consciously or subconsciously, in times of rest can be used to get a better understanding of the lens in which a person views the world around them. Paying attention not just to the thoughts of depressed or anxious individuals, but also the way they choose to vocalize those thoughts is all part of the formula that can help in understanding the framework through which they view their world.
Language of Absolution
Individuals riddled with depression or anxiety often view the world through a lens of black and white in order to help them conceptualize and process a world without the inherent uncertainty that comes with the infinite nuance of possibility. In a world in which it can be exceedingly difficult to control much of anything, breaking down all of the options into neat and clean binaries can result in compartmentalizing fear into more manageable pieces. While this can lead an individual to create extreme binaries in their mind, it can be useful to understand that those extreme binaries exist as a defense mechanism against the fear caused by uncertainty. Overuse of words such as “always,” “definitely,” “impossible,” or continuously stressing that something “definitely will/won’t” happen is the first inkling of insight into the person’s view of their environment.
Language of Self-Deprecation
This vocabulary usually manifests itself under the facade of humor — telling jokes at the expense of one’s self in order to get that laugh that allows the person to continue to masquerade as joyful. Hearing these jokes not as hyperbole but as deeply held self-imposed shortcomings showcases how often this extreme language is used, and the vocabulary used often overlaps with that of the aforementioned absolution. Understanding the jokes in this light can be jarring, but the depressed or anxious person who constantly uses this language also forces themselves to hear it. Over and over again, they become desensitized to their own sense of self-worth.
Constantly hearing and saying these sets of vocabulary allows them to ingrain themselves into the mindset, reaffirming their place as the depressed or anxious person. Jokes are no longer jokes, but rather beliefs they are forcing themselves to hold. A self-fulfilling prophecy created by their own mouth.
Noticing the Change
While the goal is to help an afflicted individual by comfortably addressing the necessity for nuance in their lives — the grey between their black and white — it is an exceedingly difficult place to start. Rather, begin with their vocabulary. Changing their vocabulary does not mean simultaneously trying to change their thoughts, though. Instead of agreeing that something is “impossible,” reaffirm that it simply is “improbable.” While something may not be “definite,” it is “highly likely.” Changing one’s vocabulary is tedious and time-consuming. But supplanting the black and white binary with the possibility of, well, possibility can have drastic effects on someone’s outlook of the world. They can face the tiniest bit of entropy without even knowing it. Then they’ve already won their first battle. These extreme views can dissipate and give way to allowing them to face what they fear most: “if.” — but now with their own bit of agency. These “ifs” no longer have a standard answer, and they don’t quite fit cleanly into the extreme views anymore. Their self-deprecating self can be thrown into doubt. No longer can they “never accomplish” what they want to, they just “might not.” Yeah, it’s still not great, but it’s progress.
This major upheaval of mindset can seem seismic from the outside, but the simple change in vocabulary is internal and has the ability to operate on a subconscious level. So, if the words “if” and “maybe” begin to show themselves, then the first step to change has already been made.
Language is an immensely powerful tool. While the editing process allows writers to view and review their work on a page — constantly changing tones and punctuation to create one specific, desired effect, the spoken, conversational language operates without that safety net. It is, by nature, much rawer in its reflection of the mind. So, pay attention not just to the thoughts, but the words of someone who is depressed or anxious, or even just under suspicion of being depressed or anxious. While the thoughts of each individual are important, the words they use to portray their thoughts can tell just as much about how they are thinking, and thus how best to start to connect and communicate with them.
At LifeTutors, the staff realize the importance of an individualized approach when it comes to recovery. Providing the support needed at the base level, LifeTutors is available to assist in the entire recovery process, and all of its transitional periods, with the goal of creating a holistic path to self-actualization. LifeTutors specializes in addressing addiction and recovery not as an isolated event or issue, and rather a problem part of a much larger, human whole. For help or inquiries regarding any stage of the recovery process, contact LifeTutors today at (828) 417- 7122.