In How Our Words Make Us Stuck And What To Do About It I described how we have a tendency to turn the fluid processes of life into solid mental objects.
Just a few words can transform a challenging process into an unchangeable problem. For example: by turning how we are relating into our ‘relationship’ we freeze the process into a thing.
Many of these frozen processes, constellations of thinking, feeling and behaving, have familiar names: depression, frustration, disorganisation etc.
It is often convenient to encapsulate the fluidity of experience into a single word, but it is easy to forget that the label is not the same as what is being labelled.
It seems like such a small change, but what was previously a fluid interplay of factors has been turned into an object. We talk about ‘my depression’, ‘his frustration’, ‘her disorganisation’ as if they were things they owned, but you can’t buy depression at a store or sell your frustration on eBay.
It gets worse.
Freezing Your Identity
You may have said, or heard other people say:
- I am depressed
- I am frustrated
- I am disorganised
- I am …
Which is the same as saying
- My identity = depressed
- My identity = frustrated
- My identity = disorganised
- My identity = …
Now your identity, the essence of who you are has been fused with the frozen process called depression, frustration, disorganisation, etc.
If that doesn’t seem like such a big deal, you might like to try this little experiment.
Say out loud: “I feel depressed”.
What do you notice when you say those words?
Now, say out loud: “I am depressed”.
What do you notice when you say those words?
You’re probably aware of differences in your internal responses.
Making The Problem Eternal
Feelings come and go, they change and are changeable. When I say I am feeling sad, I may not enjoy the sensation but I know that the feeling will pass and something else will takes its place.
However, ‘I am’ is a statement about you, your identity as an individual. We don’t think of ourselves as coming and going. Subjectively it appears to us, however I am feeling at any given time, that I am the same person today, tomorrow and the day after that – continuous through time.
Linking ‘depressed’ to ‘I am’ makes that continuous in our experience. What might have passed, is now stuck with, and as, us.
In a few words we have made our experience solid and eternal.
Giving Your Power Away
If I say “I am tall” and “I am blue-eyed” these are both true statements. They are also outside my control, those physical characteristics are an inheritance from my parents. They are things that happened to me at my conception, I had no say in the matter.
If I say “I am depressed” I am placing myself as the passive victim of being depressed. ‘Depressed’ is just something that happened to me and there is nothing I can do about it.
If you ask someone who says they are depressed if it limits them then they will probably say yes. If you are limited by something or someone you are saying (and thinking) it has power over you.
Using a few words “I am depressed (frustrated, disorganised, etc)” you have identified yourself with a frozen process that persists through time and which has power over you.
That’s a lot of stuff to wrap up in three words.
After all that it probably comes as no surprise that simply tapping on “Even though I am depressed/frustrated/disorganised/etc … ” doesn’t often result in a one minute wonder.
Defrosting Your Identity
If we are freezing our experiences and linking them to our identity what can we do?
We need to do two things:
- Unfreeze the frozen experience by turning it back into a process
- Reclaim possession of our ability to influence our experience.
One way to do this is with a simple change of the language
- I am depressed → I am depressing myself
- I am frustrated → I am frustrating myself
- I am disorganised → I am disorganising myself.
- I am … → I …-ing myself
Changing depressed to depressing linguistically shifts the nominalisation into a process.
If you think the thought “I danced” you will probably see static or slow images in your mind’s eye.
If you think the thought “I am dancing” you will probably see a movie in your mind’s eye.
Saying “I am depressing myself” acknowledges ownership of the things you are doing to create and perpetuate that experience. If you are used to feeling like a victim of your experience thinking about it in this way is probably unfamiliar and may also provoke some discomfort or resistance. It can be difficult to attempt to take back responsibility for how we think, feel and act.
Helping The Melting With Tapping
Even the act of thinking about these previously frozen thoughts in this way may start to make some shifts in your experience.
However we can use tapping to uncover and work on the previously hidden parts of what is being unpacked when you think about things in this way.
You could just tap on “Even though I am depressing/frustrating/disorganising/… myself … ” and get some relief. Thinking this way will bring up aspects of the experience that were previously hidden.
However we can combine tapping and questioning to help us unpack what is underneath the nominalisation to speed this process along.
By using the paradoxical tapping process you can begin to unpack whatever previously stuck process you are working on.
Using depressed as an example
Use a standard setup statement to begin with, tapping on the karate chop spot while repeating “Even though I am depressing myself, I accept myself and how I feel” . Repeat this three times.
Then tap on each point in turn alternating these two phrases “I am depressing myself”, “and in how many different ways am I depressing myself?”
- EB: “I am depressing myself”
- SE: “and, in how many different ways am I depressing myself?”
- UE: “I am depressing myself”
- UN: “and, in how many different ways am I depressing myself?”
- and so on
By asking the question “and, in how many different ways am I depressing myself?” your other than conscious mind will be obliged to start searching for answers and those answers will float into awareness to be tapped on.
As you tap through this routine you may find memories, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs springing into mind, each of these is an opportunity to for further tapping.
Unpacking the process and working with what you find is will give you tappable material to work with.
Will this process alone relieve depression, frustration, disorganisation etc. by itself?
No, probably not.
Some of these difficulties are much more complicated than just the words we use to describe them. Ask anyone who has been hospitalised for severe depression.
But, although it may not resolve these issues by itself, it will give you somewhere to start in melting those frozen aspects of your experience.
Take a piece of paper and think of a current difficulty for you.
- Write out I am … at the top of a page.
- Complete the sentence I am … as many times as you can with whatever comes to mind.
- When you have the completed list, score each item from 0-10.
- Process each high scoring I am using the process described above.
Let me know how you get on.