Three Linguistic Traps that Keep you Stuck

Language is a big part of the way we think. This is a great blessing as it allows us to simplify things, easily recall information, and to easily explain them to others. But there is also a downside: when we label things, we create a situation in which they are static and defined through the words we use.

Things lose the dynamism they have as just a thing in the world. So, there is a give and take with language. This is why many older religious traditions have stories about the power of names and words.

For instance, some say that to know something’s name is to have power over it, the Abrahamic god was able to say, “let there be light” and light existed, Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof”, and the Buddha says, “Words have the power to destroy or heal.

When words are both true and kind, they can change our world.” Words have power over meaning to human beings: they control the frame.

In other words, like any other type of power, language has a give and take. We are able to label things, but we also are limited in many ways as language stops us from the pure openness of just experience itself. And while this is a troublesome idea philosophically, it also has a very concrete, everyday limitation: the words we use can create linguistic traps that keep us stuck in specific ways of thinking and specific patterns of thought.

power of words

This happens because when we put things into words, we presuppose things and by presuppose or presupposition, I mean an idea that is assumed inside of a larger concept. Like when I say “unmarried men” we assume they are are men and bachelors, but also generally assume that these men are single though they might be in committed relationships, widowed, asexual, celibate, priests, etc.

If we change our presuppositions, we can shift our reality

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