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The Syntax of Self - Change one word to change your life

. 2 min read

"So what happened between you two?" he asks, breaking the silence.

Suddenly trillions of neurons fire all at once, memories summoned by a symphony of emotions. The scent of her conditioner fills my nostrils, stomach sinking from the weight of shame remembering that stupid comment. Delight takes hold for a brief moment as her smile blossoms in my mind's eye, followed by echos of shouting and a recollection of how my bedroom ceiling looks in the dark. A separate universe, unbounded by time, was constructed within me only to be extinguished before the next wave had a chance to reach the shore. He raised an eyebrow, signaling that a response was expected. "I....well we......I don't know" was my best attempt at an honest translation.

Take a moment to consider that humans have built empires spanning entire continents, walked on the moon, harpooned a comet in deep space, unlocked the secrets of atoms, and yet our best method for sharing our own consciousness with another being involves slapping a wet muscle around inside of our faces. In those brief moments when it's absolutely paramount to express ourselves, an unfathomable degree of nuance is distilled to descriptors such as "good, happy, pissed", or if you're feeling fancy - "perplexed". Recognizing the severe limitations of language provides an opportunity to reevaluate how we see the world and share that vision with others.

Here's one example to illustrate this notion: there's a vast difference between "I am angry" and "I feel angry". Changing a single word grants us the ability to discern that we are greater than the sum of our hormonal cocktail and enforces the notion that we choose our emotions, not the other way around. We may not have control over what happens to us, but we sure as hell are responsible for the way we feel about it. "Responsibility" is commonly used as a synonym for "accountable", which makes it a very difficult pill to swallow in times of distress. But if you breaking it down to it's literal composition, responsibility simply means "the ability to respond". We are in the driver's seat. We can choose not to respond, but if we do, it's on our terms. How can we even begin to take responsibility for our emotions if our only means of communication neglects to distinguish between the two?

The next time you find yourself sharing your feelings with a friend, give it a shot as see how it tastes. If you're as lucky as I was, it might even reveal the solution to your problem, should you choose to look for it in the first place.