Why language matters!

I just quoted Moreno on Korzybski, and they are both right. Language used in a certain way leads to inaction, and a false belief that we are not acting beings at all times.

The passage I found & that I have quoted below makes clear.

I know I have coached people to use EMA, English Minus Absolutism without rationally knowing why, or understanding the principle, I feel grateful and excited to discover this deeper principle. Also to see more clearly how it is related to Psychodrama and action.

Using E-Prime and English Minus Absolutisms to provide self-empathy.

Quote and some discussion follows.

The whole Journal is here, interesting.

Still, I found the sheer magnitude of the problem quite overwhelming. Even after learning Rosenberg’s method of giving empathy to the chooser and educator, several students almost daily told me they were “horrible,” “disgusting,” “foolish,” “nerdy,” and so forth. The students fell into a major trap; their word structure implied a one-to-one, direct, factual relationship between the subject (themselves) and the predicate In programming, a statement that evaluates an expression and provides a true or false answer based on the condition of the data. (horrible, disgusting, etc.). How else could I teach students how to speak to themselves with kindness and in a way that reflects reality?

Here, some methods that evolved from general semantics A discipline developed by Alfred Korzybski that proposes to improve human behavioral responses through a more critical use of words and symbols, came to my rescue–especially the techniques of E-Prime and English Minus Absolutisms which help reduce judgmental terms. I felt that if we succeed at finding more ways to teach students (and ourselves) how to stop naming, blaming, and shaming, then we can really say, “Peace begins at home.”

E-Prime involves writing without using any form of the verb “to be.” As I found with my students, saying “I am stupid” results in equating one’s self with stupidity, leaving no room for other possibilities. Note the difference between “I am a jerk” and “I feel like a jerk.” (4) One reason for speaking or thinking in E-Prime stems from the assertion that using the verb “to be” results in identification and a sense of permanent, final, complete, sameness, which can lead to rigidity and stagnation of thinking. Such identification leads to dogmatic conclusions and generalizations, and to confusing the word with the thing. E-Prime, by eliminating “to be” verbs, forces the speaker to use active verbs, and changes what we say from a statement of “fact” to the description of a process or condition.


PS there is a problem here with his example (though it does not take away from the main point of this discussion):

“I am a jerk” and “I feel like a jerk.”

“feel like” usually is not a feeling but obscures a feeling.


“I am a jerk” –> “I think I am a jerk, when I think that I feel pain, heavy, sad, guilty.

(why does that matter? The second response evokes empathy… leads to encounter, we can enter into the other’s experience more easily if they use feeling words – of course action will also assist in that. Action is more forthcoming if the feelings are named in the form of empathy from self and other.)

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