By: Dr. Erica Wollerman
I recently was reading an article written by a woman who has been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and she was reflecting on the #soOCD trend on Twitter and how reading about how others view their slight compulsions or desire for things to be a certain way as being “#soOCD.” It was a great article and summed up so eloquently something that I see quite often in my office. People often comment that they are depressed when they are actually just sad or having a bad day; say they are anorexic after skipping a meal or bulimic because they ate too much once; say they “are so ADD” because they weren’t focused for a brief moment at work; and the list goes on.
Sadly, we all use such dramatic language to describe things in our lives and since one of my main beliefs about being a person is that the language we use MATTERS, this matters too. When we describe our slight hunger as being just starving or our slight nervousness as a panic attack, we are trivializing the experience of people who really are starving or experiencing panic attacks. We are also hyping up our own experience and magnifying our emotions needlessly. We are using very serious words to describe situations that don’t match up in severity. What this leads me to think about then is, what happens when we are actually depressed? How will we describe that in a way that is genuine, authentic, and matches the experience when we have already used our arsenal of big, serious words?
You might be wondering why this matters to me so much and it has a lot to do with my experience working with people in managing their emotions. With kids, we talk about needing to “name it to tame it.” What this means is that we need to find a word to describe accurately our feeling or experience so we can then understand, process, and move on with learning from the experience. Without being able to do that accurately, I believe that we might be more at risk for difficulties managing our emotions.
I would encourage all of us to strive to follow one of the tenets of the Four Agreements and to be “impeccable with our word.” By seeking to describe our experience as accurately as possible, we are going to not only understand our own emotions better but we also will avoid being insensitive and minimizing of others’ experiences.
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