I’ve been asked for more videos about the mental and emotional side of being a creative person recently, so this week I’ve been thinking about how we use language to shape our experience.
This can be as simple as how you talk about ten minutes of unpicking – is that a disaster that spirals into a terrible day, or is that re-done seam a temporary inconvenience that makes the dress better anyway?
But I’m going to take it a little further. When Jessie commented on one of my videos recently she used the phrase “…with my anxiety…”, and I suggested that one very small change to that phrase could change her relationship with her mental and emotional health.
I tackle this subject with some trepidation – I’m not a mental health professional, and I’m perhaps veering out of my lane here – but I know this one little shift has been helpful for me, and so I share it in the hope that it can help make your days easier too.
Is it “my anxiety” or “the anxiety”?
I hope this inspires you this week!
Hello again, I am back with slightly dodgy lighting but we’ll see what we can do. You’ve asked me for more of these videos, so here I am.
So I was answering some of the comments on other videos and Jessie made a comment, in passing, she talked about, “…with my anxiety…” and I said to her, there’s another way you could put that, in terms of the language that you use because – just try this on for size. The way that we look at the world forms what’s true for us. So there’s very little in the world that’s objective, everybody has their own subjective way of looking at the world. So a lot of how we experience the world, how we experience ourselves, is based on how we subjectively view it. That’s how you get two different people in the same situation, taking away a completely different meaning from it. One person thinks it’s the end of the world, another person thinks it’s, the end is just the beginning of something else. So the way that you think about things, the way that you talk about things particularly, the way that you talk about your experience, dictates sometimes how much power it has over you.
So when you talk about “my anxiety,” what if you switched that, very subtly, and started talking about “the anxiety”, because by switching “my” anxiety to “the” anxiety, you are completely changing your relationship to that situation. So for example, “my anxiety” feels like part of me, it’s here to stay, there’s nothing I can do about it, whereas “the anxiety” is more of an unwelcome shotgun passenger in your life and it’s along for the ride but this was not your choice. It’s tagged along. And so, that isn’t to say that I’m telling you you’re wrong if you really feel that you’ve got mental or emotional issues that are here to stay, and it’s a case of managing that. I’m not negating that or saying that that’s wrong, your situation is your situation. What I’m saying is, by saying “the” anxiety, you’re putting a fence around it and putting it over here, rather than it being in you, and that then means that you’re not flawed or wrong anymore. It’s THE anxiety, over here.
It’s like the same thing as, if you catch the flu, you don’t start talking about “my” flu, and you know, I’ve had it for weeks now, my flu. You don’t talk about it that way, it’s “the” flu, it’s separate. So it means that, if you do that, it means that you’re no longer flawed or wrong, it’s over here, it’s separate from you and it means also that you can fight it and you can dislike it and you can hate it, even. But you can hate the anxiety without hating yourself because the anxiety, or whatever struggle that you’re going through, is separate from you, it’s not part of you and you become, it becomes easier for you to be somebody you can love and look after because this thing that you dislike that you’re dealing with, is over here, it’s not something that’s wrong with you.
So, tell me what you think. I mean, I’m not, full disclaimer, obviously I’m not any kind of doctor or psychologist, this is just a simple change in the way that we talk about how we experience ourselves so it may help a little bit in how you deal with these things. So I hope that’s helpful. Leave me a comment and tell me what you think and get inspired and be assured that, I think I’m trying to say there’s nothing wrong with you. We think of these things as something wrong with us and it’s really not. It’s, I know a guy called Mastin Kipp, who you can find on Instagram and he did this amazing shift in mindset, where he takes things like mental and emotional health issues, things that are usually referred to as “disorders” and changes the language to “response”, as in, this is a response to some sort of trauma in your life, and that’s a whole nother subject. But he just made me think about, little shifts we can make in the language we use and the way we think about the things we’re struggling with, that can make it a little bit easy to live with ourselves.
So yeah, tell me what you think. That’s a big subject and I’m not truly qualified, I’m just talking about my experience. So I hope that helps you and go do some sewing this week, get creative and do something to love yourself. See you soon.
I just wanted to say well done for talking about this – it’s a difficult subject. As a creative person who has struggled with my own mental health, I think whether what you suggested is helpful to any individual or not, talking about mental health and normalising it is always a good thing xxx
Agreed Lyssa, thank you for saying so!
So true. I was just discussing this subject last week with my friends and, your totally right. Is the glass half empty, or half full ? That depends on how thirsty I am. Lol. Another practice Ive discovered to bring more positive attitude in life is, every morning I wake up and say “Something wonderful is going to happen today”. It’s amazing. Something wonderful usually DOES happen. It could be something as simple as hearing a baby laugh, or, finding twenty dollars on the ground. Try it, and you’ll start seeing more blessings in life than curses. Ciao …. Clay
Yes!! I read a wonderful book a while ago called “Thank and Grow Rich” by Pam Grout that talks all about this. The way we perceive our experience has a profound effect on us. Thank you for commenting Clay!
Love this–very insightful and helpful, Cathy. Delivered, as always, with such warmth and caring. Thank you!
Thank you Kay, I’m glad it resonated.
Thank you Kay, I’m glad it resonated!
Brilliant and stop with the not qualified stuff. One person helping another is what we need without worrying about the degreed people getting upset.
Thank you! I appreciate that, it was more that I wanted to make that standard legal disclaimer that I do not have a piece of paper saying I have outside validation of any expertise on this! Viewers and readers take my advice on their own discretion!
I do my best to mention my current depressive state as a form of illness. I currently have depression and anxiety, so I there are some things like big social gatherings that I currently can’t cope with. Just like I can’t go to ballet class with my muscle tear in the left calf. That’s something that needs time and care to heal, and right now, it is preventing me to function like I would if I was 100% healthy. I find it also helps when you face people who somehow feel mental health is just a matter of willpower and “getting your stuff together”.
Thank you for putting this out in the world, we need more videos like that !
To me, it is less about “my” vs. “the”, and more about reframing mental challenges like anxiety or depression as something that is affecting me *now*. It gives room for change. Currently, I suffer from anxiety and depression, so I have to make some changes to my life because I can’t cope with things like I would if I were healthy. It also helps if you encounter people who are deeply rooted in the “just get your sh*t together” frame of mind – just like I won’t go to ballet school with an injury in a leg, I won’t attend a big stressful social event with anxiety.
We need more content like your,s keep up the good work ! <3
That’s a great perspective Marion, thank you for sharing!
Yes, and yes.
I mostly just struggle with procrastination and getting easily derailed from sewing. A screwed up seam used to be enough to put me off the project for the rest of the day. But with the robe a l’anglaise I’m working on right now, I stitched the front bodice onto the side bodice of my muslin upside down *three times,* and instead of letting myself get completely discouraged, I went right back and took the darn thing off again and restitched it correctly. I still can’t meet a deadline to save my life, but it’s little things like discovering that yes, I do have the patience to unpick an entire sleeve seam and pin it again and restitch it because it was lapped too far over, that make me realize I have grown as a seamstress. My next priority is to really set myself limits on social media, so I’m using my time well (posting to my Abigail Adams page, talking about sewing and improving my techniques versus just noodling around endlessly) and that’s not something I’ll be able to do cold turkey, but I started using an app timer that tells me exactly how much time I’m spending on my phone. It’s kind of terrifying.
Speaking as a linguist, words have a lot of power. As a person who struggles with anxiety and depression, this is something that I’ve discussed many times working with my psychologist. We tend to overlook the small connotations and semantics of language that influence our perceptions. Things like, you are fat vs. you have fat or my anxiety vs. the anxiety or your other example of disorder vs. response. Without realizing it, our brains pick up on these subtle cues and shape our worldview accordingly. I’m so happy to see you sharing these concepts (they are so important!!) in such a thoughtful way.
I stumbled on your blog through your work on the peacock dress, and I am so glad I did! A few of your posts have brought me to tears because of their honesty and how they gently touch upon those same areas I struggle with daily. Thank you for your inspiration and the grace you use to share it!
Anxiety is indeed a very large and complex subject that I personally deal with every day and like the idea of changing for the positive any aspect of it. Thank you and have a less stressed day!
I discovered this concept years ago, but had not thought to take it and apply it to other feelings. In my life my fear was preventing me from moving forward. I discovered that fear did not have to become a barrier. I chanted a personal mantra that allowed me some distance from those fearful feelings and my agency within the world. It not only gave me distance, in some ways it turned my fear into an ally. “Fear is the Wookiee that walks beside me.” Thanks to you I now know my Wookiee can carry more than my fear. She can also bear my anxiety.
Hi, I just ‘met’ you last week through a video by Bernadette Banner, love the both of you! I’m not really a sewer though I do some sewing (quilts by hand, some mending, hand sewed some curtains when my kids were growing up, have machine made a skirt and I’m a big crocheter – everything from lace to afghans). I am an artist, medium is color pencil mostly but acrylic painting from time to time.
As for the subject of anxiety which you spoke about, I am well acquainted with it. I was diagnosed in 1995 with Panic Disorder because it became a chemical imbalance and have had to be on meds for it since. And it has a best friend called Depression that is by it’s side. They are beyond a nuisance, let me tell you! You are right when you say we need to watch how we talk about anxiety because that often causes anxiety to rise up for no reason therefore causing it to linger, to be an internal roommate so to speak. And actually we need to watch how we talk about all medical and emotional issues, the negative thinking (which claiming it as ‘yours’ is negative thinking) causes many more issues for ourselves, it can cause medical issues to arise.
I had cancer back in 2010 and I noticed after that people tended to label the cancer that they had when they talk about it as ‘My Cancer.’ They lay claim to it even if they only have a 2% chance of it coming back, some hold onto it as if it is a badge to be proud of. Yes, I must admit I have done that and sometimes slip back into that mode, and I notice when I do slip into it anxiety rises and causes a panic attack because suddenly every little twinge or pain becomes scary – “Is it back?” becomes the paramount thought. It is better not to think about it unless it is necessary. Apostle Paul says to think and focus on things that are clean and pure, there is a reason for this. It is by doing this that we are often able to control that which scares us and often times actually heal ourselves.
Hmmm, good reminder!
Thank you for taking on the subject of anxiety, many people are afraid to because it makes them anxious. 😉