May 09, 2013

The 7 Words You Can’t Say on TV

Regardless of their age, most people have heard of George Carlin.  Carlin was a stand-up comedian that touted himself as being an athiest and found popularity through his irreverent comedy.  I believe that the reason he became so popular was not just because of his ability to get people out of their day-to-day state of unconscious living by his irreverent humor and shocking language, but because he brought the “pink elephants” out of the corner and sat them in the middle of the room.  One of the routines Carlin had that became extremely popular is called “The Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV”. 

In the routine, Carlin lists the seven words and says, “Words are all we have, really. We have thoughts, but thoughts are fluid.  Then we assign a word to a thought and we’re stuck with that word for that thought, so be careful with words. I like to think that the same words that hurt can heal, it is a matter of how you pick them.

There are some people that are not into all the words. There are some that would have you not use certain words. There are 400,000 words in the English language and there are 7 of them you can’t say on television. What a ratio that is 399,993 to 7. They must really be bad. They’d have to be outrageous to be seperated from a group that large. All of you over here,you 7, Bad Words. That’s what they told us they were, remember? “That’s a bad word!” No bad words, bad thoughts, bad intentions…

Of course, I won’t put the seven words in this post because, to this day, many of them are still considered “bad”.  What I consider even worse are the seven words we are raised to use that limit us in our life.  These words are; should, shouldn’t, must, musn’t, have to, need to, supposed to.  This isn’t an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.  Just notice the stress you put on yourself when you use these words inside your own mind:

  • I shouldn’t do that
  • I should do that
  • I must do that
  • I musn’t do that
  • I have to do that
  • I need to do that
  • I’m supposed to do that

I had a client recently that made a statement similar to this; ‘I needed to get there on time because I was supposed to be there to get things started and I kept telling myself that I musn’t be late because others are depending on me.  I knew I should have left earlier and I was so dumb for not.  I was yelling at the people on my way there to get out of my way, I have to got to be some place.  It was so frustrating.’  You may, or may not, identify with her.  The emotions she was feeling as she recounted the drive to the appointment were palpable.  What was funny was that before she told her story, I had just went over the seven words.  So, when she was done, I fed what she told me back to her, emphasizing the seven words.  She then fully realized what she had been doing to herself.  The unwarranted stress she was self-inducing.

Think about the seven words and how often you find yourself using them.  Remember the feeling you get when you use them.  No, do this.  Anytime you use one or more of those words, stop and reframe the thought you just had.  For instance, if you have to be somewhere at an exact time and you’re going to be late, what is going to happen if you are late?  Maybe get a frown from someone?  Be told to be prompt the next time?  Not that I’m condoning being late for appointments.  I like to arrive early myself.  When I do find that I’m going to be late and there is nothing I can do about it, then I ask myself the question; is it really going to be a big deal?  It usually isn’t.  So, why add more stress by conjuring up pictures in my mind, in your mind, of how terrible things are going to be?  In reality, how many meetings really start on time anyway?

Another way to change the level of stress is by creating options.  When you should, shouldn’t, must. musn’t, need to, have to, supposed to do or be something, reframe it as a choice.  As free moral agents, humans love to be the one that makes the decision and not feel we are forced into a decision.  So if you have to go that family dinner, make it your choice to go.  “I’m going because…” and the “because” doesn’t matter.  It could be because of the wife, the husband, the kids, the goldfish, it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that you chose to go.  I had one client that I took through this exercise and he told me, “I showed them!  I went alright, but I went mad.  I made sure everyone at the party knew I was mad and it really made the party suck.”  Hmmm…well, isn’t that special!  This sounds more like an 8-year-old’s behaviors, doesn’t it?  To see the flip-side of that, let’s get back to making things a choice.  So, if this person had told himself that he was going “because it will make my wife happy”, “because it will be a great time for my kids”, or something like that, and then went and made the decision to enjoy his time, all the unnecessary stress would have been avoided.  In fact, people would have been upbuilt and happy!

So, remember George Carlin’s words, “Words are all we have, really. We have thoughts, but thoughts are fluid.  Then we assign a word to a thought and we’re stuck with that word for that thought, so be careful with words. The same words that hurt can heal, it is a matter of how you pick them.”

Creating life in forward motion,

Dr. Edward Lewellen