I was sitting down at the guitar the other night and every so often I want to play something different. One app I use suggested a Steely Dan song. I threw the capo on the 5th fret, followed along, and started playing. I heard this song at least one hundred times more, but never thought about the lyrics as anything but song lyrics. Playing and singing along and if you do not know the song the chorus has a line ‘They got a name for the winners in the world, I want a name when I lose. They call Alabama the Crimson Tide. Call me Deacon Blues” 

If you do not know me by now, I will start over thinking about the song, followed by some research about the song and what was going on in my head. What else do we not have words for? And what could be the consequences of not having words? And how does the brain distinguish minute differences in emotions, thought etc. In reading I found that when we have negative emotions and thoughts without the correct wording it leads to feeling worse. By using the correct words and identifying an emotion we start to feel better. And having specific words and talking to someone is proven to be very effective. One example is the Japanese have a word that describes looking worse after a haircut(age-otori) makes them feel better. There is no word in English for this. 

I write as a hobby and thought I understood the power of language, but never thought about the power of words. For example, after losing my wife, I was in a fog, had no emotions for an extended period, and did not have the words to express what was going on. During Covid, I found the lack of human interaction had me feeling sad, but sad was not the right word. Eventually I found the words for my mourning and the languishing feeling during Covid and really felt different. I was not sure why, but I was the power of words that hold the answer. 

The question that Steely Dan was asking for a better name for losing, but the question is why we do not have better names for many emotions and situations that could describe the feeling other than sad and unhappy. Like when there is a school shooting, a terrible accident, a serious illness in the family are all occasions where sad is the emotion but they could be better described by other words to help us heal. 

There are words that do show up, road rage for when someone gets angry in traffic, burnout for over stressed at work, stage fright for when you are afraid to go in front of people and buyer’s remorse when you spend $1,200 on the latest smart phone only to realize it is just marginally better than the one you traded in. Those words allow us to express a specific emotion and help us heal and reduce our anger. We do not have one in English for a bad haircut, frustrated with computer slowness, or hundreds of other situations where it could calm the situation down.  

To understand why the right words help, and the effect of how you speak to yourself I did some more reading and thought. I took Spanish in high school, and when you are hungry the literal translation is ‘I have a hunger’ (“tengo hambre”.). And it is true, you are not hungry, just like you are not fat (you have fat) and you are not tired, you feel tired. The language we use to describe ourselves does click in our brains. We connect the dots, and believe we are what we tell ourselves. We think we are angry, sad, depressed etc. But that is not who we are, and words fail us. Speaking those words may start our healing process, and if we only had the right words and language our brains would react differently (according to the studies.) 

In getting myself in shape I tracked my weight, body fat and other metrics. I realized the words I were using ‘I weigh…’ or ‘my current body fat is…’ which led me to the results I am getting. I had not connected the dots until writing this. I set goals for the metrics, and it was defined by the metric and a number. The mind body connection is not only during the workouts but about me.  

The power of knowing the correct words, saying them to yourself and creating a new vocabulary (when the words do not exist) changes the mind. Something I should have known. Bruce Lee said ‘Don’t speak negatively about yourself, even as a joke. Your body doesn’t know the difference. Words are energy and they cast spells, that’s why it’s called spelling. Change the way you speak about yourself, and you can change your life.’ The only thing he missed in the quote was that it is connected to your mind, not just your body. Many people have not heard the full quote, and only heard through the sentence ‘Your body…’ but the rest is as powerful, and now with studies to back it up, we can see his wisdom.  

Next time I hope the app recommends something less thought provoking. 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them. 

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information. Images without notes are created using and AI tool that allows me to reuse them.