My “drinking game” words
A few months back I was going through some kind of quarter life crisis in which the only solution that made sense was to get wine and chocolate cake with my roommate. Clearly! After rapid-firing my entire arsenal self-pitying shame sludge at her, my ever-patient roommate made a simple observation. “You say ‘should’ and ‘silly’ a lot.”
Oh my god, I really do! “I should know better than this.” “This was such a silly thing to get worked up over!” I say these words all the time, and I hadn’t even noticed up until that point. If my conversations were a drinking game, we would take a shot every time I said them.
As we played armchair therapists, delving into what those words meant for me, we discovered that I have a perfectionistic tendency to fixate on some ideal image I want to project (should), and I like to trivialize matters important to me in order to deflect the resulting unpleasant emotions (silly). I actually already knew I harbored those tendencies – those weren’t news – but now I also know when they’re surfacing.
I still say these words, but these days I catch myself doing it, and simply that awareness is enough to immediately demystify the discomfort. “Oh, I called something silly again. What am I trivializing now?” It reduces a seemingly complex and scary problem into something simple and straightforward. It provides definition and structure, a starting point for even beginning to understand and/or troubleshoot the situation. There are plenty of articles written about how attaching a name to a feeling can reduce the power of that feeling and compartmentalize it into something we can handle. Why not reverse engineer that process?
What names are you already attaching to feelings and situations when you retell your stories? They need not be negative to be insightful either. For instance, another one of my drinking game words is “beast.” That’s how I compliment others (“Beastmode!” “What a beast!”), because I apparently value strength and power. Other words or phrases may really just not mean anything either, and that’s cool too.
For fun, here’s a tag cloud generator where you can paste articles or conversations to see what words you use most often. So what are your “drinking game” words? (No, “the” and “I” and obvious common words don’t count, smartass!)