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How to Utilise the Power of Language to Reduce Stress and Suffering
By Alan Sieler
From our personal experience we know that language is crucial to how well we function in everyday life. This is easily confirmed by a moment’s reflection on our engagement with email and social media as well as our phone and in-person interactions with each other. We humans are languaging beings that get things done, coordinate with each other and create the future through language.
Language is more than “a thing” that we use – it is a process that we are continuously immersed in. While many people are skilful at using language, our education and training systems pay insufficient attention to one aspect of the extraordinary power of language.
The linguistic tool kit of Ontological Coaching
One of the hallmarks of Ontological Coaching is the explicit recognition of the generative power of language and the skilful application of a “linguistic tool kit” to assist people enhance the quality of their personal and working lives. The linguistic tool kit consists of six ways that all humans, regardless of their first language and culture, continually generate their individual and collective realities. Each linguistic tool is a specific way that we create and shape our reality, like the tools a carpenter uses to create a cabinet or a desk. Everything we do in language is related to these linguistic tools.
One of the linguistic tools is “opinions”, which at first glance may not seem significant because we all have opinions about just about everything. However, this is a huge part of language that includes judgments, assessments, perspectives, points of view, assumptions, evaluations, appraisals, values, beliefs, preferences and prejudices. Humans have been characterised as “opinion-making machines” that consistently manufacture opinions.
One of the traps of this linguistic tool is that we can hold many of our opinions with great emotional intensity and without realising it treat our opinions as if they are facts. This can result in our opinions not being open to question and when they are questioned we can defend them with great vehemence, regarding other opinions as “wrong”, because our opinions are “right”.
From the ontological perspective (an opinion!), opinions are not good or bad or right or wrong, they simply are. The key question is:
In Ontological Coaching the large area of language that includes opinions is referred to as “assessments”. Our assessments can be negative and positive. Unfortunately we can be very unkind to ourselves with some of our negative self-assessments; these can occur in our internal conversations creating unhelpful realities without realising what we are doing.
In the challenge of raising children it is not uncommon for mothers to negatively assess how well they are doing as a mother, sometimes continually berating themselves for falling short of being a “good mother”.
The power of self-coaching to generate a more helpful reality
Two of the hallmarks of Ontological Coaching are:
The process is called “grounding assessments” and it has been outlined in two previous newsletter articles (“How Constructive Are Your Negative Opinions?” and “Firmly Standing Your Ground in the Face of Criticism”). An integral part of becoming an ontological coach is to continually use the ontological methodology to self-coach, which includes learning the effective application of the grounding process.
As a student in the Graduate Diploma in Ontological Coaching “Jessica” realised that she was saying to herself “I do not know how to be a good mother to my daughter right now”. While she was aware of the difference between facts and opinions, she recognised that the strong emotional grip of the assessment meant that she was treating it as “true assessment” that could not be questioned, therefore condemning herself to a negative reality about herself as a mother.
Through self-coaching Jessica was able to skilfully apply the grounding assessments process to shift from a negative to a more constructive reality. She has graciously agreed to share in her own words with how she did this by working through the five key questions that comprise the grounding process.
So coming back to my original assessment, I could see that the global statement “I don’t know how to be a good mother” was ungrounded, and in fact, in many aspects of life there was no evidence to support this. I “shrunk’” the assessment to be “I don’t know if she is at the right school”. I concluded that this narrower assessment was actually grounded.
The consequence of this was a huge reduction in my stress, and in particular any tendency to beat myself up for being a bad mother. It also made me feel less powerless, as I felt that the “problem” had shrunk with the assessment, to simply being about which school she should be attending.
You are invited to identify one negative assessment about yourself, or perhaps someone else, that is compromising the quality of your life, and take some quiet to work through the five questions in the grounding process.
© Newfield Institute
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