Today we are exploring the way that the language we use determines the fundamental capacities of our brain, as well as the automatic physiological responses that we are subjected to. We will see that amazingly, awareness of the way we are using language is one of the most crucial factors that determines our level of emotional wellness, as well as our ability to create and maintain healthy relationships.
DID YOU SEE THE MOVIE ARRIVAL?
MY TAKEAWAY WAS: “LANGUAGE DETERMINES THE CAPACITIES OF OUR BRAIN”
I really hope you saw the movie Arrival, not only because it was a really intelligent and well-made film, but also because if you haven’t seen it yet, I may spoil just a little bit of it now, because it makes such a great illustration for this information.
I really just want to note how in the movie Arrival, because the scientist is learning a non-linear alien language, her brain gains the capacity to see beyond the linear dimensions of time that we normally consider fixed.
CONNECTIONS WITH NON-VIOLENT COMMUNICATION
The Language of Universal Human Feelings, Needs & Values is a new language that has exactly the same type of profound effects on our brain, because by learning this new language, we are very much learning how to activate different parts of our brain which allow us to easily empathize with other people, and ourselves.
Different ways of using language to interpret sensations and events create different interactions with different parts of our brain. This in turn produces very different physiological responses.
Our common language –at least in English and the romance languages- consistently describes other people’s actions as being done TO us, which actually causes an involuntary response from our hindbrain.
Our reptilian hindbrain is extremely simplistic: food, sex, fight, flight or freeze are the 5 automatic functions of this hindbrain, and that’s all it is capable of.
What is crucial to understand is that whenever we use language in a way that describes action being done TO us, the language itself triggers the automatic survival mechanisms hard-wired in our brain and we can lose control of our reaction and responses due to these unchangeable instincts.
USING DIFFERENT LANGUAGE = DIFFERENT PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONSE
So lets use two different ways to express the exact same events, and notice how our brain & body responds to the two different ways of describing the exact same thing.
So for example, say that I just got out of a 1-year relationship that ended because my girlfriend decided she wanted to be with someone else.
In the language I use to describe what happened, I can say that my girlfriend “betrayed me” or “abandoned me”. I can say that she “left me” for someone else, and all of these are ways of using language to describe her actions as being done TO me.
This is critical to understand, because – once again – anytime we use language that describes action being done TO us –and specifically actions we do not like- then our hind brain will automatically go into a survival response, because it cannot help but interpret a either a threat or a direct attack.
LANGUAGE CAN CREATE THE EXPERIENCE OF PERPETRATORS & VICTIMS WHERE IN REALITY THERE ARE ONLY EQUALLY SELF-INTERESTED PARTIES
When we use language that describes action we don’t like being done to us, then our hindbrain will instantly interpret the other person as an attacker and will begin to see them as some sort of hideous monster. Only a hideous monster could do horrible things like betray or abandon their lover, right?
So when we use language that describes action being done to us –and another way to say this is “taking other peoples’ behaviors personally”- then we cannot help but feel that we are victims, that they have horribly wronged us, and so logically, there is something horribly wrong with them.
This interpretation creates a massive negative emotional charge within us. The person I loved becomes a monster. I am an idiot for loving them. Separation is necessary for survival, as I can no longer feel safe to even engage with them, and where once there was love, now there is only pain and resentment.
Now contrast this with a very slightly but very substantially different way of using language to describe the exact same events, this time without any action being done TO me. Instead of saying that my girlfriend “betrayed me” or “left me”, I am going to say simply, “my girlfriend fell in love with someone else. “
I encourage you to say both of these different phrases to yourself now and internally feel into the difference that each interpretation makes inside you emotionally.
The biggest thing to notice when you say that “my girlfriend (or boyfriend) fell in love with someone else” is that you don’t go into a survival response. You don’t feel attacked. You don’t have to see the person as a monster. And you don’t feel like a victim who was harmed by the other person, but rather you are given access to the real emotions that are alive for you, which are likely to be disappointment and grief of loss.
And now notice that when we say “my girlfriend abandoned me”, then we don’t get access to these emotions of grief, rather we cannot even let ourselves be sad for losing a monster who hurt us, but instead we can really only feel angry at being victimized. Instead of feeling our real emotion of sadness, we instead go on the offensive and direct our anger at the person we think has hurt us.
This actually causes us exponentially more emotional and physical pain.
Not only does this kind of interpretation cause us to feel a confusing and painful mix of emotions of hurt, sad and angry all at once, these survival responses also powerfully suppress our immune system, leading to physical illness as well.
So it’s critical to understand that when we use language that interprets ourselves as a victim of someone else’s behavior, then our brain will instantly undergo the exact same physiological process as if we were just attacked by a tiger.
In order to survive being attacked by a tiger, just imagine the intense amount of adrenalized energy that is needed, as well as the fundamental need to see the tiger as a hideous monster, in order to fight it off and survive.
This is exactly what happens in our brain whenever we use language that describes action being done to us, because we are causing our hindbrain to interpret that we have been attacked.
But the moment that we choose to use language in a different way, that is, to describe the action without reference to anything being done to us personally, then and only then are we capable of seeing the situation clearly, seeing the person clearly and even being able to empathize with them, as well as being able to empathize with ourselves.
So when we use language to describe someone doing something to us, then we cannot help but trigger our hindbrain survival instincts that must see the person as some kind of monster, which makes us incapable of empathizing with them. This is due to our hindbrain survival programming that simply will not allow us to empathize with anything we interpret as attacking us.
You know, humans would not survive long if we were programmed to empathize with an animal that was attacking us, right?! We are simply incapable of considering how hungry an attacking tiger and her cubs must be. The very thought is ludicrous. Rather, we are designed to see the tiger as some kind of monster that is attacking us, and so be filled with an adrenalized rage that gives us the best chance of fighting off the tiger to survive.
This automatic survival programming will never turn off. It is always on alert and ready to spring into action to keep us alive. But due to the way we tend to use language, we are constantly triggering this survival programming at highly inappropriate times, causing us to see people we love as monsters that we must attack in self-defense. And falling into this unconscious survival programming really only serves to damage and destroy the relationships that we value most.
USING CONSCIOUS LANGUAGE TO AVOID TRIGGERING THE HINDBRAIN
So in order to not accidentally trigger our hindbrain survival responses and to not fall into the painful cycle of false victimhood and all the swirling emotions that entails, we have to learn how to use language to more accurately describe events so that we are not describing any action as happening to us, but rather describing action is simply happening.
So using the example above, I could say that “my girlfriend fell in love with someone else.” When I describe the event in this way, there is nothing being done to me. And furthermore, I have just described my girlfriend in a way that I and really anyone can empathize with. What adult human could not empathize with the internal conflict of being in a relationship with one person, but feeling you are falling in love with someone else? Do I really want to be with her if she is actually in love with someone else? Is she not doing her best to honor herself and me as well by being authentic to her feelings? Is she not also actually making space for me to find someone who really does want to be with me?
In this example, I am using language to interpret events carefully so that I do not trigger my hindbrain survival response and so that I can inspire empathy for her instead. I do not see my ex-girlfriend as a monster, but as a human doing the best she can. Using language in this way does not activate my hindbrain survival response, but actually stimulates my cerebral coretex which is responsible for rational thought, imagination and empathy.
I will still feel disappointment and grief over the loss of the relationship, but that is actually the authentic emotion I am really having, and it is only by carefully not describing myself as a victim that I get to access these authentic emotions at all.
If I use language to describe myself as a victim of her action, then these simpler emotions get completely covered up with a much more complex combination of hurt and anger, and I will actually create a much larger and more painful wound in myself, which I will insist is very real, but in fact, truly only exists due to my choice to use language which describes my girlfriends actions as being done to me.
So I hope that this brief exploration into the way language interacts with our brain has given you some profound insight into the way you have been conditioned to use language in ways that make you out to be a victim, triggering your hindbrain survival response, and so creating painful and unmanageable explosion of emotions which can easily destroy our most precious, intimate relationships.
Thanks so much for watching this video. You know I really hope your curiosity is stoked and you feel inspired to learn more about Non-Violent Communication and how learning this new language can empower you to take control of your brain’s automatic survival programming so that it does not hijack you into fight or flight, creating painful emotions and damaging important relationships.
If you liked this video then be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, as I will make more videos sharing specifics on how to learn and apply NVC language in order to gain more control over our limbic system’s automatic responses and find the emotional clarity needed to not take action out of the reactionary pain and anger of our survival mechanism’s interpretation of victimhood, but rather to take action from a place of acceptance, compassion and empathy, as this has the power to restore connection and healthy rapport within any relationship.
For other videos and articles on all kinds of cutting-edge health and wellness topics, be sure to check out the Advanced Home Wellness website.
I’m Kevin Asher, thanks again for watching, and be well!