This Common Phrase Could Limit or Liberate You

Using Everyday Language as an Opportunity for Personal Growth

Our use of specific language can trap or liberate us. By noticing these patterns of language, we can inquiry into the deeper motivations and feelings in any given moment, resulting in more self-awareness, more self-control, and more intimacy.

Today we’ll look at one such phrase. It’s extremely common in English and Spanish. And it actually encourages us to project onto others, disowning our emotions and keeping us from accessing deeper underlying truths. (For those who aren’t familiar with the term “projection,” in psychology it refers to us taking an uncomfortable feeling that originates inside of ourselves and blaming it unconsciously on someone or something else).

What is the phrase? “That makes me feel…”

(y en Español, “me pone…”)

How to Be Powerless

Using this phrase is not a “bad” thing; it is simply something to observe.

As we observe, we notice that the phrase implies a whole host of unquestioned assumptions. For example, instead of being in charge of our own emotions, we are the victim of whatever is “making us” feel them. We have no control over what is making us feel them, so we have no control over what we feel.

We are doomed, powerless, at the effect of circumstance without any chance to be any different.

It does not have to be this way.

An Opportunity for Self-Inquiry

Cutting this language from our vocabulary will not help us grow—the projection will happen anyway so we might as well keep around this handy cue. Then, whenever we notice ourselves or someone else saying “that makes me feel angry,” or “that makes me sad,” we can question the basic, unexamined assumptions held in place by this phrase.

The phrase then becomes an opportunity for self-inquiry. Instead of being victims, we recognize our own power to choose the meaning we make of whatever events and circumstances befall us.

Putting the Concept into Everyday Practice

Here are a few questions to ask ourselves when we notice these phrases:

  • Does something outside of me actually make me feel this way? Or am I choosing to feel this way? Are there any other options or perspectives?
  • Do I actually feel the way I’m saying?
  • Are there other feelings, desires, or thoughts that coincide or coexist, even if they are contradictory?
  • Are there deeper layers?
  • Is there a social norm I’m conforming to by saying this? Do I agree with the norm now that I’m thinking about it?

By stopping and asking these questions in the moment, we can gain powerful insight into the unconscious processes that drive our lives, giving ourselves the option to choose something else that better serves our goals, growth, and happiness.


Image: Some rights reserved by Pierre Lognoul

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