We say, “I am“. The French say, “I have“.
Which is more empowering?
Well, given that your brain actually responds differently, depending on how you say what you have to say. If we’re not careful, we activate our flight or fight response – our stress response.
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So when faced with a challenge, how do you talk to yourself? How do you describe your situation to other people?
Do you say, “I am angry and frustrated” or do you say, “I feel angry and frustrated”?
What’s the difference?
When you begin, “I am…” you’re making a statement about your identity. That carries with it the implication that you’re stuck with it; that it’s permanent and can’t be changed. You’re saying that your feeling is who you are.
On the other hand, when you say, “I feel…”, it’s just that. You’re describing how you feel right there and then. And we all know that our feelings change. The statement allows for a shift. It’s not permanent. This too shall pass.
The difference between the two ways of saying virtually the same thing is actually measureable in your body. When you say, “I feel…” blood flows away from the large leg muscles, which would have prepared you to run under threat.
In the brain also, we can measure a significant increase in activity in the prefrontal cortex, where you do all your problem-solving and experience empathy; where you manipulate facts and create solutions.
The French have got it right.
They don’t say, “I am depressed” because the way their language is structured, they’ll say, “I have depression,” the implication being that if they ‘have’ it, they can also not ‘have it’ which allows for the possibility of letting go of it.
So when you talk to yourself, it really does matter what you say.
After all, when you talk to yourself, someone very important is listening!