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June


The Power of Language. Tuesday June 21, 2016

A couple of years ago my son was deeply stuck in the mire, triggered by his then wife kicking him out of the family home. He was rejected and cut off from his three small children. Without sufficient funds to home himself as well as providing maintenance for his kids he had no choice but to move back in with us, his parents.

He was heart broken and devastated. His world had crumbled around him and he saw no reason for living.

Somehow he managed to keep going to work each day and, initially, I would greet him on his daily return with the standard "How was your day?" enquiry. Not surprisingly my enquiries were met with "awful" or something similar, depending on just how ghastly he felt that day.

After a few days I understood my mistake. I was attempting to reach out to him from a place of safety, from a place of 'normality'. There were no such things for my son at that time and my silly question was serving no purpose other than to remind him of the awful mire that he was stuck in.

At that time I read something about the power of language and how critical the way we phrase things can be, and it made me completely rethink my innocent question. So the following day, as he returned from work, I greeted him with "So, what was the least awful thing that happened to you today?". He stopped in utter surprise and looked at me...

"Umm... the Least awful?"
"Yes" I replied "The Least awful"
"Oh... well, I suppose I did manage to finish that job my boss has been plaguing me about for the last 2 weeks, I guess that's something"
"Yes" I said "That's definitely something, it might even be better than just something"
and there was a hint of a smile.

After that it became a habit. Gradually he was looking for the positives in his day without even realising. You see he wouldn't allow himself to be positive at that time. In his eyes there couldn't possibly be anything to be positive about. But this 'least awful' thing was something he could see as possible.

And the 'least awfuls' slowly grew. He would even sometimes smile as I asked the question, almost as if he could see some humour in my distorted question.

Then one day we had: "Well that pretty girl was there at lunch again today and she smiled at me - she's got a great smile" and then I knew we were safe.

He had at last found the courage to really notice the world around him, to look past the mire, to see other people and even to enjoy their presence a little. Without really realising it he had found that the mire wasn't so totally dark after all... not quite a silver lining, but just not so very very dark.

I wanted to share this story because I wondered whether, if someone here is stuck in the mire, they could find something today, however small, that they could call the 'least awful' thing for their day today, because those 'least awful's can grow, and then the dark can gradually become less dark... I've seen it.

Anne
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.


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Comments

LillyPet Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 6:21am

Morning Anne, what a wonderful story and great idea to change the language if communication is stuck.
The least awful thing is definitely something for the treasure chest ( changed the toolbox languge! :)
It's a beautiful morning in London one of today's least awful things to start off with! Sunshine and hope to all LP xx

LillyPet Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 6:39am

Morning to Lex! I just replied to your comment yesterday. Have a good one. LP x

Lex Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 9:22am

Thanks, LillyPet - just picked it up and replied there 'cos I was so grateful. L'x

LillyPet Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 12:22pm

Cool will have a look. X

Anne Wed, Jun 22nd 2016 @ 6:55pm

Thank you, LillyPet - I was nervous of posting.. thank you for the encouragement :)

Hopeful One Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 6:22am

Hi Anne- you have a powerful message for all Moodscopers today. It is this: stuff happens in our lives . The next step is the crucial one -how we interpret that event. Look at it in a positive way " least awful" will do for a start and our inner world will start to look sunny . Go the other way and our inner world will stay in a dark unwelcome place. The choice is ours. But one now knows what one should do.
"Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness." Desmond Tutu. I would go one better. Hope is when one keeps whistling when everything around us is dark.

Love to all fellow Moodscopers from sunny Skopelos.

The Joke Squadron will resume its sorties upon return to the Blighty.

LillyPet Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 6:23am

Enjoy H.O.! Xx

Orangeblossom Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 7:29am

Hi Anne
Thanks for the ray of hope & light that your story conveys. I found it very encouraging.

Anne Wed, Jun 22nd 2016 @ 7:47pm

x

Anne Wed, Jun 22nd 2016 @ 7:47pm

x

Lou Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 7:42am

What a lovely story! Thank you for sharing & I hope your son is back on an even keel again.

Lou

Lou Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 7:42am

What a lovely story! Thank you for sharing & I hope your son is back on an even keel again.

Lou

Anne Wed, Jun 22nd 2016 @ 7:48pm

Thank you, Lou .... he is much more settled and stable... and even looking to the future with hope :-)

Carol Anne Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 8:11am

Anne - thanks for today's post. It's spot on. My brother is going through something similar to your son and that approach will be valuable....I'll share with my sis and brother.

Also though, I'm going to try and use with my sis. She's got a huge load and is weighed down by the constant demands of her two late teenagers and a young adult daughter with autism. I was just reflecting yesterday after I spoke to her, how could I get her to see the positives in her day....as these are often masked by other things.

Very helpful. I'll let you know how it goes.

Have a great day everyone.

CA ????

Anne Wed, Jun 22nd 2016 @ 6:57pm

Thank you so much for letting me know - it's a delight to know that my experiences are of use to others... I send you very best wishes for your family

S Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 8:36am

Thank you Anne, this is really useful. Sx

Anne Wed, Jun 22nd 2016 @ 6:57pm

Delights to hear it S ... very best wishes x

Lesley Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 8:36am

Dear Anne, your blog could not have arrived at a better time. I have been through the mire for the past few years and wish I had had someone like you near me to help me. Today, Midsummer, is a difficult day for me as it reminds me of the loss of a home built, a country, a marriage, a family and the future I had planned. I have a dear friend who has already nudged me to just get through today. I have a busy day planned and am addressing some things. Your blog will serve as a prompt for me to ask myself each day what good has happened. Your son is very lucky to have you.

S Wed, Jun 22nd 2016 @ 8:39am

Lesley, I am sorry that today (now yesterday) is a difficult day. I hope that you got through the busy day. What was the least awful thing of the day? Sx

Anne Wed, Jun 22nd 2016 @ 6:59pm

Thank you for your lovely response... I do hope your own personal mire is not quite so very very dark today x

the room above the garage Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 8:57am

You're a beautiful person to adapt and seek a way to connect with him. And on a day I really needed it, you hav e me something. Thank you, love ratg x.

the room above the garage Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 8:58am

You're a beautiful person to adapt and seek a way to connect with him. And on a day I really needed it, you hav e me something. Thank you, love ratg x.

the room above the garage Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 8:58am

You're a beautiful person to adapt and seek a way to connect with him. And on a day I really needed it, you hav e me something. Thank you, love ratg x.

Tutti Frutti Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 9:43am

Sorry you are having a tough time RATG. Glad you found the blog helpful. Hope today is less pants than yesterday. Love and hugs TF x

Skyblue Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 10:37am

ratg, 'pantsarama'?? heheheee perfect word to describe the chaos around here which usually makes me spiral. The injection of your humour really helps. xx

Anne Wed, Jun 22nd 2016 @ 7:00pm

Thank you so much RATG ... and very much hoping you can find some 'least awful's to help you on your way x

Skyblue Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 9:16am

This is just wonderful, Anne. A reminder that even a spark of gratitude can be a powerful thing. Thank you! xx

Anne Wed, Jun 22nd 2016 @ 7:01pm

thank you for your kind words ... a great help to me xx

Lex Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 9:23am

Dear Anne, this is utterly brilliant - insightful and liberating. I love the empathetic compassion expressed so eloquently through language. Deeply appreciated. L'x

Anne Wed, Jun 22nd 2016 @ 7:01pm

thank you for your warmth and encouragement x

Tutti Frutti Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 9:44am

S and Jul see very late replies to you on yesterday's post TF x

Jul Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 11:38am

Seen them Tutti and have replied. Love Jules xxx

Norman Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 9:46am

Anne, I think it needs to be recognised that your son was reaching out to you by saying "awful." You picked up on that and found a way to communicate. My lexicon in similar circumstances would include phrases such as "not so bad," "mustn't grumble," "bearing up under the strain," or some such. I realise now that this was a way of shutting down discussion so I could be miserable in peace.

As HO is on holiday a little giggle for you all:

two young attractive women are in a restaurant flirting with the handsome young waiter. When he asks for their order one of the women says "I'd like a quickie please!" The waiter thinks his luck is in until the friend hisses "I think you'll find it's pronounced 'quiche.'"

Hopeful One Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 3:05pm

Hi Norman- brilliant!Thank you for stepping in.

Tutti Frutti Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 7:38pm

Norman I think I was busy commenting at the same time as you this morning so I have only just read your joke - good one. TF

Tutti Frutti Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 9:55am

Anne
I find this a useful way to talk to my teenage daughter when she closes down on me. It's still worth my asking 'how was school' as sometimes I get a decent answer - whether it be an enthusiastic account of what they did in drama or general indignation about something. About half the time though I just get the contemptuous grunt and then a bit of digging on was there anything which wasn't so awful might get something like "well I got 85% for my geography homework but the lesson was still really boring". As a mother I prefer to hear these things rather than just the grunt and I also like to have the reassurance that there's currently nothing too awful going on behind the grunted response. Obviously no guarantee what she says will be reassuring but currently all fine.
Hugs to all.
Love TF x

Salt Water Mum Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 9:55am

Thank you so much anne,
Very timely for me,
SWM X

Dolphin Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 9:58am

Thanks so much for this really useful blog - when I thought about the least awful thing yesterday, it made me smile (though the humour was rather black!). Since I have been pretty weepy lately, the wry smile in itself was good.

Your blog also made me think about something else that I've discussed with a friend. My partner (and his mother) tend to ask me 'what I've done today'. I immediately feel defensive and start thinking of a to-do list and what I have or haven't done and justifying my existence. (I know this is an extreme way to think about it, but at bottom, this is what I feel I have to do.) When talking to a friend and saying how much it irritated me, she suggested that I turn it around. If someone says to you 'how was your day', you answer in a very different way. So now I've started to answer as if they had asked how my day had been and I am much more relaxed about it.

As I've been typing this, I am also starting to think if there are any other ways we can turn around wrong-headed or un-empathetic or aggressive questions by answering in the way that makes us feel good. Language is indeed powerful and can shape our interactions. Taking that marvellous quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, maybe when we feel challenged, we should answer from the heart not the head.

Thanks so much for the prompt x

Anne Wed, Jun 22nd 2016 @ 7:04pm

a close friend made me smile today when I had been complaining about my 'awful' morning - 'oh dear' they said 'and what was the Least awful thing about it' ... and I couldn't help but laugh and smile! ... I think we've found some powerful medicine here ;-)

The Gardener Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 11:19am

Thanks Anne, so positive. And Norman, those phrases were the stock, and ONLY responses my Ma ever made. Mr G can be excused now for the miseries - but even in his state I can prod him (with a very sharp stick) - to approve of something. He and his brother have been great pickers-up of disaster. Their ears are tuned to every bit of bad news - why we all travel God knows because every possible and impossible disaster is reviewed. I say they are 'worry-guts' they claim it's risk assessment. Back to Anne - in my life the unhappiness of my children - especially during break-ups - has been worse to cope with than my own disasters. One of our sons, late teens, came into the kitchen - looked at his face, oh oh. He went off to his little 'eerie', I followed, only risked getting thrown out. On his bed, floods of tears, clutching Teddy. I laid down too, storm subsided. The girl had been giving him hell - but 'Breaking up is hard to do' who sang that?

Hopeful One Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 3:36pm

Hi Gardner- the version I know was sung by Niel Sadaka. "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" Do do do Down dooby doo down down Comma, comma, down dooby doo down down Comma, comma, down dooby doo down down Breaking up is hard to do Don't take your love away from me Don't you leave my heart in misery If you go then I'll be blue Cause breaking up is hard to do Remember when you held me tight And you kissed me all through the night Think of all that we've been through And breaking up is hard to do They say that breaking up is hard to do Now I know I know that it's true Don't say that this is the end Instead of breaking up I wish that we were making up again I beg of you don't say goodbye Can't we give our love another try? Come on, baby, let's start anew Cause breaking up is hard to do (They say that breaking up is hard to do) Now I know I know that it's true (Don't say that this is the end) Instead of breaking up I wish that we were making up again I beg of you don't say goodbye Can't we give our love another try? Come on, baby, let's start anew Cause breaking up is hard to do (Down dooby doo down down) Comma, comma, down dooby doo down down Comma, comma, down dooby doo down down Comma, comma, down dooby doo down down Comma, comma, down dooby doo down

Lexi Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 11:50am

Hi Anne - oh to have a beautiful, compassionate mother like you! "I was attempting to reach out to him from a place of safety, from a place of 'normality'. There were no such things for my son at that time..." I do believe everything is meant to teach us more about ourselves, how to be kinder to ourselves and have our hearts remain open. But man. Sometimes life just throws it all at you and you can't help wondering "what the fu**." So bless you Anne, for being so kind and compassionate and openhearted with your son, and I imagine with everyone stuck in the mire. Thank you.

Anne Wed, Jun 22nd 2016 @ 7:05pm

thank you for your warmth and kind words, Lexi - I am very touched. x

Jul Tue, Jun 21st 2016 @ 11:52am

Hi Anne. You did well to find the words to communicate with your son during what you describe as very upsetting circumstances. However your blog set me thinking!! The power of language eh! How I would love to study Rhetoric. But it's only in the last decade or so that we have had to adapt our words and learn how to speak to others in difficult situations isn't it? I mean my parents didn't think twice about what they said to me. They just said what they thought. I still make this mistake and realise I could have said things a better way but frankly I don't know how to say things sometimes which will elicit a response. It's as if I need to go on a course so that I can learn a new language. I think the internet, the increasing need for therapy to unravel our complicated, diverse lives and the language teachers are asked to use to deal with the complex lives of their pupils have all contributed to us not really knowing how to handle difficult people, be they close to us or strangers who may cause us trouble. I really do believe life is far more complex than it used to be and this is not an older personspeak. Lol!

Anne Wed, Jun 22nd 2016 @ 7:08pm

Some great points, Jul - my parents too were 'careless' with their language by today's standards... and from what I can gather, their own parents were even worse. I am hopeful that society as a whole is managing to learn that we can use language with more care and love. My own mother's over-riding memory of her mother's words to her is: "and what makes you think you're so special?!" .... not particularly uplifting ;-)

Leah Wed, Jun 22nd 2016 @ 12:09am

Anne,
I was deeply moved by your compassion for your son and the wonderful gift you have with writing. I hope to read more of your words.
Words our powerful but sometimes we are human and people must know we are coming from a place of concern and love.
I have a friend who asked her adult child to say the least worst thing of the day and she said" you just don't understand do you, everything was terrible" before she stormed off.
I suppose that not only does the language have to be appropriate the person receiving it has to be ready.
All so complicated.
Thanks again for a great blog. It has given me much to think about.

Anne Wed, Jun 22nd 2016 @ 7:21pm

so right, Leah... these things only work when the person listening is ready to hear... and I don't know whether we are able to judge (consciously or unconsciously) when exactly that is... Maybe I just struck lucky! :-) Thank you for your very kind words... I was very nervous of sharing but you have all been very kind in your response... it makes me feel braver! x

Anonymous Wed, Jun 22nd 2016 @ 3:42am

Anne, I'm so sorry for the awful time your son experienced. (And you, by extension.) Good for you in catching the unintended poison in your words, and finding a way to reach out to your son in language he could relate to. On my darker days "how was your day" becomes painful to face, because it just stirs up all the bad feelings I've struggled with. I love your question of what the least-awful part of the day was!

Anne Wed, Jun 22nd 2016 @ 7:22pm

thank you!

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