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Intentional Language

Intentional Language

by Cole Timonere, JD, MA, PhD Student

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”  -George Orwell, 1984

Language is powerful. It is the most commonly used method to facilitate communication, and has the power to start fights, end relationships, and even cause catastrophic events, such as wars and mass shootings. Of course, it can be used positively as well, to form healthy relationships, mend strained connections, and allow people to feel heard. As suggested by Orwell, it also has the power to effect and change our thoughts. Given the breadth of power that language employs, it is a wonder how many folks seem to use it without caution. Or perhaps, we might say, without awareness.

When we think more about language, we can gain insight into how often it has changed over the years. In fact, in present day, language evolves faster than it ever has due to widespread use of the internet. These shifts in language tend to occur as a result of social, economic, and political pressures. However, they have further evolved in the mental health field as we gain deeper insight into how folks think and internalize messages received, especially folks who identify as having an addition. We now have the knowledge to know that the way we speak can affect the way we think, which ultimately effects our relationships with the people around us and our perception of the world in which we live.

Thus, if we know language has the capability to effectuate thought change, consider what it might be like to be more intentional in our use of our words. Folks who have addictions of any kind often are plagued with negative thinking, which is typically only truncated by the negative verbiage which they exude. And so in an effort to exacerbate a change in our thinking, let us be intentional with our words. Challenge the negative thoughts and employ words in furtherance of a perception change. Let us consider these ideas in an effort to be more intentional with our language.

  1. Am I using judgmental language? Am I judging myself or someone else in my speech?
    1. If yes, how does this effect my mood?
  2. Am I being kind in my language use, to myself and to my peers?
    1. If no, how does this effect my thoughts and mood?
  3. Am I clear when I speak? I am ensuring I am conveying my thoughts to those around me in a way they can understand my thoughts/feelings/concerns? Is there a way I can be more clear?