I was listening to this audiobook today about gratitude, and it was basically about changing our mindsets. One of the proposals for example was going from “I have to do something” to “I get to to something”. I felt it like a very powerful exercise. When I did it in relation to my to-do list, my emotions drastically changed. That remined me about how language shapes our worlds.
It sounds like a superficial phrase, this notion of language creating our worlds. However, when we actually experience it, we can see how true it is: it turns into a very practical concept and even a tool for our every day lives. What for? For many things: a) to be aware of how our emotions are connected to our thoughts; b) to change our emotions by changing our thoughts; c) to understand that other people will probably see the world differently from us.
Why be self-aware? Understanding ourselves, observing ourselves as if from the outside, helps us as a first step to make changes. Sometimes we have what are considered negative emotions, and we don’t know why or what purpose they serve. Noticing them and looking at them will give us a lot of information that can then help us change and move into more comfortable emotions.
The same happens with thoughts. We are constantly in conversation with ourselves, even when we don’t realize it. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we are talking out loud or changing seats to talk to ourselves taking turns. It means that we have ideas about how the world is or should be, which we can reconstruct through language. Paying attention to what they are is the first step to understanding and being able to change if we want to.
I’m not saying that we need to change. What I’m saying is that we can change. There is this idea that we are they way we are and that’s it, but that’s not necessarily true. One of our human abilities is our capacity to change. Of course, there are physiological aspects that we mustn’t disregard, but there is a lot we can do through self-awareness and self-observation. We can intervene in our own selves to change.
We can change our emotions in a heartbeat. Emotions are not static; on the contrary, they are related to what we’re thinking and how our body moves. If we feel sad, we can do things with our bodies and our inner conversations to change that. We can, for example, move to pop music or take a walk, and our emotion will change.
We can also look at how we understand the world through language and start changing the narrative, like in the example about gratitude. Thinking about chores with the what-I-get-to-do mindset instead of the I-have-to mindset, my day turned out to be a very happy one, instead of a lazy one.
Of course, our biology is based on patterns, so changing patters will be a little bit more difficult and may probably take some time. However, sometimes the sheer realization of something will make us change our behaviour very fast, as when something clicks within us and we cannot go back.
We are taught that we must respect others. That’s like a basic mantra we hear when growing up. Understanding that reality per se is unattainable from our human limitations, and that each of us perceives reality differently really helps engrain this concept. It’s not an intellectual and abstract exercise anymore, but rather the understanding that yours is no more (and no less) than one of billions of ways of looking at the world.
Imagine if we could all understand each other from this point of view, moving away from the right-and-wrong mindset. I believe that this would open a new way of listening, one that ontological coaching is really interested in, where we listen and ask questions to understand, rather than to answer. Imagine a world where our conversations happened from those standpoints. What a world would that be!