Language, How It Impacts Us – May 26, 2013 Meditation

Language, How It Impacts Us

Words are an interesting thing. What I find interesting is not so much the meaning of a word, though that is important too. No, what I find interesting the most is the effect of words on our mind and our attitude in life.

An example I offer today is the word ‘failure’. Personally it is a word I try to avoid using because of the potential for harm it can cause either in myself or in others.

The word failure caries with it a quality of lacking value. The word failure frequently is a summation from which there is no alternative. It has a finality about it that is counterproductive to life improvement. There are other things about the word I find troubling such as; demeaning, devaluing, judgmental, and so forth.

There have been a number of studies conducted exploring the nature of language and words and the affect those words have on our lives.

I recall hearing of a study done on children comparing those who did well in school, were socially integrated, and who expressed high levels of happiness. What researchers looked at was the frequency of use of negative words versus positive words. They found that those children who did well in several areas being studied had a much larger exposure to positive language than those who did less well. I homes where the children were exposed to negative, demeaning, devaluing language there was a greater tendency for the children to do less well, experience unhappiness, and tended to be insecure; even affecting their ability to learn.

What was interesting was the study went on to explore what would happen if the language the parents used changed. What if the parents were coached in using positive language and reduce negative language. What the researchers uncovered was the children began to show improvement in areas measured.

If we think about how we talk to ourselves, I am not sure about how it is with you, however for me, when I am more encouraging, more positive, more gentle with myself, I can feel a shift in my outlook.

In a class I was attending the other day the instructor said that roughly for every negative word we say to ourselves, we need to say a positive word 16 times to erase the impact of the negative thought; a sure indicator of the harm of negative language.

What negative words do you use to describe yourself?
What negative words do you easily use to describe your job?
What negative words easily come to mind?
Can you think of words that may be either more neutral or even positive?

About Ryusho 龍昇

Nichiren Shu Buddhist priest. My home temple is Myosho-ji, Wonderful Voice Temple, in Charlotte, NC. You may visit the temple’s web page by going to I am also training at Carolinas Medical Center as a Chaplain intern. It is my hope that I eventually become a Board Certified Chaplain. Currently I am also taking healing touch classes leading to become a certified Healing Touch Practitioner. I do volunteer work with the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (you may learn more about them by following the link) caring for individuals who are HIV+ or who have AIDS/SIDA.
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3 Responses to Language, How It Impacts Us – May 26, 2013 Meditation

  1. krisquigley says:

    Hi Ryusho,

    Haven’t heard anything from you for a couple of weeks. Is everything ok?

    I have been having some trouble with procrastination recently, so much so that it is causing immense pressure and stress, I can feel it on my chest pushing down. The more I think about the stress the more I want to solve it, but that leads to further procrastination until I am stuck in an endless loop.

    I somewhat made a bit of a breakthrough last night when I decided to meditate on the feeling. I realised that I was procrastinating over putting some time into writing my Masters thesis. Whilst meditating I tried searching for answers on why I might be procrastinating and what I could do to reduce or stop it. After about 10 minutes I started to realise that I was procrastinating because I was unclear on what I needed to do next with my thesis and then used various tactics to hide my procrastination (finding things to clean, tidy up, surfing the internet, etc.). Strategies to justify my procrastination.

    Once I had realised this, I finished my meditation and started to analyse which aspects of my thesis I wasn’t clear on and began to problem-solve and brainstorm my next actions.

    It left me feeling like I had made a breakthrough with my understanding of myself and gained strategies on how to deal with the situation in the future.

    The next test will be whether or not this will be something I can overcome with the current strategies or whether I will need to continue to deal with this issue.

    Do you have any advice on the subject?

    Thank you for your time.

  2. Thanks for asking how I am, I appreciate the concern. My work load at the hospital has increased and there have been a lot of changes going on as well. Also I have been doing some writing for my certification committee. In other words I have been on a little break. I should have a post update this weekend.

    I understand the pressure of an ever approaching deadline and the inability to make the necessary effort to meet that goal. I think there probably might not be one specific way to overcome this problem. Sometimes it might be lack of focus or direction, other times it might be a real aversion to what needs to be done. If an aversion it might be valuable to examine how it happened you find yourself with the obligations. For lack of direction seeking clarity.

    Generally what woks for me is to actually start. I try to set aside time to do just the thing that needs to be done, and force myself to do nothing else. I also try breaking it down into smaller parts which then makes the rewards of success and completion occure frequently, which is motivating. For me doing my taxes is the worst. So, I set aside a couple of hours, way more than needed, to just organize all the documents. That is all I try to get accomplished. Then I’ll say the next day or the next week I’ll add up all my receipts and sort them into the necessary categories, project done. Then on another day I’ll plug in all my income information. Another day I’ll put all my deductions down. By this time the taxes are almost complete.

    When it comes to writing, I have found that using Mind Mapping software has liberated me from the prison of outlines and linear thinking, it just works better for my thinking style. Also jus beginning and allowing myself to have a bad beginning which I can edit later. But I never edit the first paragraph until I am done with almost the entire writing project.

    And that for me is the key to overcoming procrastination, just begin, allow it to be an imperfect beginning, and focus on the small steps along the way, and not the end or expected outcome.

    This was probably no help at all, but it works for me.

    Good luck!
    With Gassho,

  3. krisquigley says:

    No, that was great help! I have actually begun to put some of those strategies you have mentioned into place. I have developed a schedule of when I should work on my thesis, etc. I forced myself to get something done, even a little, last night and it felt great. I am hoping this is going to be the turning point.

    I found this to be most inspiring:
    “just begin, allow it to be an imperfect beginning, and focus on the small steps along the way, and not the end or expected outcome.”

    Thank you.

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