Three steps to dissolving that mental roadblock

When you know what to do but don’t want to do it, chances are good that something deceptively simple is getting in the way — a word.

Words can be healing. And words can be roadblocks. This is because they are not “simple” at all — they’re chock full of associations. Of course, half the time we’re not even fully aware that they are driving us up the wall. For example …

  • You know that you need a plan to finally get your financial situation in order, but the word “plan” is loaded for you and subconsciously sets off your stuff. Every time you think the word you become too annoyed and stressed out to even start.
  • Some clients come to me because they know it’s time to out themselves as performers, to admit to being singers and writers, or to finally “do something” with their art. But their loud negative associations with words like “artist” and “performance” slow them down to the point that they can’t truly self-identify with the thing they want to be doing.
  • If, like me, you came late to the world of business, you might be dealing with regular resistance to concepts like “networking”, “marketing” and other yucky words which are setting off your internal “ewwwwwwwww” alarms.

What not to do about it

Maybe you’ve noticed this kind of thing happening. Or maybe it’s happening on a less conscious level and you just aren’t doing the thing you think you want to be doing and aren’t quite sure why.

Welcome to the club. Yup, if you’re having allergic reactions to words, you’re not alone. It’s natural and normal and happens to just about everyone. We all have issues around words and luckily, there’s a pretty decent cure.

If a word is setting off your stuff, you might be tempted to ignore it or bulldoze through it. Don’t do it! The “get over it already” school leads to repression, pain and more trouble later on. If you want to move through the current state of word “stuckification”, there are three steps you can take to get there. But first, a little bit about …

The hidden life of words

Words have a hidden emotional charge that is highly individual. Life experience adds up and gives words layers of powerful and subtle associations, attaching secret definitions that are both complex and very personal.

Take the word “plan” again. When Sunny has a problem she likes to sit down and come up with a plan. Working on the plan helps her calm down instantly and feel like she’s in charge of the situation. But when Dave even thinks about planning he gets an instant stress-headache. He goes straight into “Aaaaaaargh, a plan? What if it doesn’t work, what if I’m unhappy, then what?” mode.

From the wrong word to the right one in three steps:

Rewriting your patterns starts with rewriting the words you use to describe them.

Step 1: Define the trouble word.

If we do a little linguistic mapping taken from my clients, Sunny’s definition of PLAN looks something like this:

PLAN = [+control] [+possibility] [+options] [+choices] [+freedom] [+calm] [+spacious]

Dave’s definition, on the other hand, is more like this:

PLAN = [+commitment ] [+pigeonholing ] [+danger] [+possible unhappiness] [+stuck] [+stress]

Step 2: Define the elements that you want your word to contain.

What are the characteristics of your ideal definition or your ideal result? For example, you want to move away from [+fear] [+obligation] [+consequences] and towards something that has [+safe] [+supportive][+encouragement].

Step 3: Take action. You have two options here.

Your first option is to shift your personal association by reframing the word. When I work with clients we do some semi-wacky stuff like acupressure and visualization/perception techniques to introduce the new definition into the body-mind. But you can also do this just in your head, by actively deciding that from now on, planning doesn’t need to be about being stuck. Instead, you decide that planning is actually about mapping out your options so that you’ll never be stuck.

If reframing the word doesn’t work, go with this second option: change the word. Sometimes instead of shifting the definition, it can be easier to choose a new word that already holds the qualities and positive attributes you want your ideal definition to have.

For example, Dave’s ideal definition of a plan was similar to Sunny’s positive definition, but in his case, it turned out the word PLAN was so loaded for him that it just wasn’t worth shifting. When we played with the words, we realized that he didn’t want a PLAN at all but a TREASURE MAP instead.

How do you know it’s worked? Or that you’re done?

The wrong word keeps you from moving forward, the right word gets you excited about it. It’s a little like homeopathy, in that the problem contains the solution: “Like heals like.” You use words to heal words.

Whether you’ve redefined a word or renamed it, you’ll know it’s worked because the word itself will have a glow or a resonance for you. Having a new word with built-in yummy goodness is a way to step out of the negative cycle that was being triggered for you by your problem words.

Maybe you discover that working on your treasure map is actually kind of exciting. Marketing may not make you smile, but maybe “shining your light” will. And “inspiring people to feel” could be a lot more attractive for you than “performing”.

They’re your words. And they have power when you give them power. Have some fun with them. Find ones that don’t make you roll your eyes. And who knows, maybe a little healing will happen along the way too. Stranger things have happened.

The Fluent Self