si dawson

experiments in self-improvement

Month: November, 2012

The Power Of Speech

No, I’m not talking Martin Luther King type of speech (although that was pretty damn powerful), I’m just talking about regular old day-to-day speech.

Pretty obviously, our actions are more powerful than words.

Similarly, our words are more powerful than our thoughts.

The problem is, for those of us who are of a *cough* slightly more loquacious nature, oftentimes our words are more or less exactly our thoughts.

Now, I’m not quite in the “blurt before thinking” category, but I have, historically, talked a lot.

Here’s where this is a problem.

A lot of crap just doesn’t need to be talked about.

Two examples from my experience:

1. I’m in a relationship with someone, and something is bothering me.

Why would I talk about it? To look for insight or emotional support; to try to resolve it, together; To try and subtly bully them into changing (dopey, I know); to get sympathy.

2. To prove how difficult or painful my life is. Ie, how much I’m suffering.

Why the hell would I do this? In short: looking for approval/love. I discovered I had a very deep pattern of using personal suffering to (try to) gain love & support.

The thing is, in both these cases – I’m upset. As always, the issue is never the cause, it’s my reaction.

In other words: rather than talking about it (and spreading our misery), it’s a lot more productive to get down to the root cause (almost never the person who’s standing in front of us) and get rid of that, not the seeming immediate stimulus.

At Burning Man, there’s a saying: “You don’t always get what you want, but you always get what you need.”

I’m starting to think this is exactly how life is all the time, not just out on the playa.

Case in point.

A friend recently called me out on exactly this situation. I was upset, and she pulled me up one day and said “Look, you can’t talk to me about this stuff.”

At the time my immediate reaction was pretty negative, “What the hell? A friendship without emotional support?!?”

The thing is, she was bang on the money.

The message could perhaps have been phrased differently – but I’ve eventually heard and understood what she meant.

All I was doing by talking about my internal emotional upheaval was making two people miserable, instead of just one.

This is particularly silly given that for me, “misery” is usually extremely short lived – I pull out my tools, I dump the issue and ten minutes later I’m feeling great again (in the vast majority of cases).

There’s a slightly more subtle issue too.

If someone on TV says something offensive about you (“People who voted for him are idiots”), well, it’s pretty easy to discount.

If, however, someone close to you – a partner or family member – says the exact same thing, it can really hurt.

What’s the difference? The level of energetic openness and connection between you. By opening ourselves to someone, we choose to make ourselves vulnerable.

The tradeoff (and why we do this) is, the more we open our hearts the deeper and richer the tapestry we can create together. The more beautiful the relationship has the chance of becoming.

Either way, it’s a choice, and they’re vulnerable.

So, saying nonloving things to someone who’s opened themselves to us causes far more pain than saying it to (say) a random stranger on the street.

Why on earth would we consciously want to cause pain in someone we love?

We should save our speech for adding value to the lives of those around us. Save it for being loving, supportive, encouraging.

If it’s our crap, we should deal with it, not smear it around.

As is so often the case, I more or less figured this out years ago.

Some lessons, it would seem, need to be learned a couple of times from a couple of different angles before they really sink in.


    Detecting and Dispersing Disapproval

    Disapproval is a subtle one.

    It’s often harder to detect than anger – its shouty, ranty cousin.

    It slips under our radar, disquised as a “but” at the end of another otherwise loving sentence.

    • “I love my girlfriend but…”
    • “We have a great life but…”

    or perhaps an “if only”:

    • “I’d love her so much more if only…”
    • “We’d be much happier if only…”

    This is disapproval.

    As I’ve been continuing to clear up a recent (now ex) relationship, I realised – I was wrong before.

    Or rather – I didn’t have the complete picture.

    It’s not only resentment that kills relationships. It’s disapproval too.

    Resentment is easy to see. It’s big. It’s obvious. Every argument you have – that’s resentment.

    Disapproval can easily masquerade as a background wistfulness. A quiet wish for something different, better, other. A thought ignored.

    But disapproval leads to a withholding of love.

    It’s conditional love.

    “I’d love you more if…”

    It’s trying to change the other person (which never really works). It’s trying to control them (always a bad idea). It’s judgemental.

    Only once you’ve let go of disapproval can you move into acceptance. Into a true state of lovingness.

    So, how do we do this?

    It’s actually pretty easy.

    Just say to yourself “I disapprove of [their name]…” and watch how your brain fills in the gap:

    • “I disapprove of [them] when they…”
    • “I disapprove of their…”
    • “I wish they’d…”
    • “I’d love them more if they…”

    Whatever your mind fills in, just repeat it, and let it go. Let the accompanying energy go (you’ll feel tightness or pressure – stress energy, if you will, when you say it).

    Keep doing it until you don’t care about that issue any more. Then try the starter phrase (or another) again, and see what else comes up.

    Doing this with my recent relationship, I was utterly shocked at how many things I uncovered. I think I’m finally understanding why she left. Who’d want to stick around if they could feel that much negative energy firing at them?

    And this was despite me consciously choosing and working damn hard at (ie, dropping my own crap so I could be) loving her as much as I possibly could.


    There’s a little bit of Mr Gate Closer Horse McBolterson going on here, but the way I figure it – if I’m having those thoughts about her, well, I’m sure I’m also having them about other people…

    …like myself?

    And once again, we come back to our most important relationship.

    The one we have with ourselves.

    Have a go. Get quiet, say the phrases above (but aimed at yourself) and see what your brain fills in.

    • “I disapprove when I…”
    • “I disapprove that I haven’t…”
    • “I disapprove that I…”
    • “I disapproving of my…”
    • “I disapproving of how I handled…”
    • “I disapprove that I never…”

    If it’s anything like my experience, you’ll be alternately shocked – and then relieved once it’s gone. You’ll know it’s gone when you can say the exact same phrase and feel no reaction at all.

    When you can say all of the phrases above and have your brain add nothing? That’s when you know you’re getting really clear.

    Ever wonder why you feel crappy half the time for no particular reason? Yeah. It’s internal noise like this. It doesn’t help.

    Fortunately, just bringing it into the light is really all that needs be done to get rid of it. You could use EFT if you feel like something needs a solid bash, but generally just letting it go is enough.

    What’s the advantage to dumping disapproval?

    Well, we’re all looking for approval (love). Once we let go of disapproving of ourselves, it leaves the gate open for us to unconditionally love ourselves. That self-love becomes effortless and automatic, instead of an ongoing daily battle.

    It’s also always, always a much better idea to be self-loving than be looking to others to provide this approval. After all, we’re the only ones who will be with us every second for the rest of our lives.