Last Wednesday I chose to take a hiatus out of respect for the anti-racism protests that arose around the world in response to the atrocities that took place in Minneapolis. Wellness Wednesday fully supports the equal treatment of all people, and is horrified by the acts of racism that continue to persist in our society.
Taking a pause on posting helped me reflect on how I consume social media, and how I, as a creator and consumer of media, can move forward in a healthy manner. This is a complicated topic. Consuming media about distressing topics leads to an obvious emotional strain. At the same time, as a privileged individual I recognize that feeling uncomfortable is an important part of what propels growth and change.
Simultaneously, in the wake of an already stressful few months in the world, I also recognize the utility of taking a pause, and mindfully navigating a more balanced approach to media consumption.
I recently listened to the Ted Talks podcast with author Elizabeth Gilbert who discussed the impact of language on our perspective and interpretation of a given experience.
This podcast helped me begin to think differently about the way we are perceiving our current situation, and perhaps our ability to see it in a more favourable light. For example, the word quarantine, a word which describes living circumstances that we are all currently experiencing helps to solidify the negative emotional experience of fear and isolation. Although this is certainly not a positive experience in our world, maintaining that perspective may exacerbate negative emotions and impact our ability to cope. Elizabeth asked the audience to imagine calling our current experience a “retreat” rather than quarantine and how this wording might help to open our minds to the potential for growth during this unique experience.
Another word choice that is discussed by Elizabeth Gilbert is focussing on developing “compassion” for the experience of others during this stressful time, rather than cultivating “empathy” which may be too taxing on our wellbeing during the current pandemic. She discussed how empathy is usually a good thing, but truly feeling the pain of others may be too much to ask of ourselves to give right now. Rather, having compassion for the pain of others maintains the appropriate and necessary boundaries that allow us to show care and concern while being aware of the amount of suffering we are already experiencing in ourselves.
Our words can also indicate our cognitive biases and distortions. Most of the time we do not even realize how our words articulate and reinforce errors in thinking that limit our view of a situation. One of the most common cognitive distortions that I see being used by my clients is black & white / all or nothing thinking. They say “I’ll never be able to find a job” or “I’m always awkward on dates”. Without realizing it, we let our word choices dictate our perspective and therefore our beliefs about ourselves, the future, and the world.
In respect for the current rallies in protest of racism, it is also important to acknowledge the language that we use intentionally or unintentionally that reinforces stereotypes, racism or hatred of any kind. Although it is explicit racism that makes the news and makes us shudder, implicit racism is perpetuated with our words, comments and questions, not realizing the implications and messages that they communicate.
In an effort to try and actively create a better experience for myself I am choosing to be more aware of the words that I am using and how they impact my mood, my perspective, and my treatment of others.
What have you noticed about the words you have been using lately? Connect with us on our social channels to let us know.
Jessica is a member of the clinical wellness and learning support team at FLEX Psychology. Jessica started Wellness Wednesday out of a desire to provide further opportunities for her clients to extend their wellness journey to all avenues of their life. You can learn more about Jessica by clicking here or by learning more about her and the clinical team at FLEX Psychology by clicking here.