Those Pesky Rabbit Holes! #39 #cong23 #reality


Reality sometimes isn’t reality because we’ve altered in some way in the language we use. It is a useful exercise to sometimes become aware of the thoughts and images in our head, and in our conversations with others and try to be clearer, to avoid the use of rhetorical devices.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Language is useful, but treat it wisely.
  2. 50,000 thoughts a day – we don’t need all of them.
  3. Like electronic devices, it is important also to turn off our rhetorical devices.
  4. A disaster might not be a disaster, and if it is, it is nothing to worry about

About Bernard Joyce:

A human first and foremost, living in rural Mayo with a vision for a better place for everyone. Company is called New Paradigms. Doing rural-type things like chairing the local GAA club, playing a few tunes in the local, amateur drama and kayaking

Contacting Bernard Joyce:

You can connect with Bernard on LinkedIn, follow him on X or send him an email.

By Bernard Joyce

Reality! What a great topic for Cong 2023. I mean there are all sorts of ‘rabbit holes’ one could down on this subject. But hold on a second! Rabbit holes are real, but humans can’t really fit down rabbit holes, and besides, there are possibly some animal welfare issues at play here also. Furthermore, if we did manage to fit down, how would we get back out? So, oops, I think I may have opened a can of worms just now. Well, firstly, I’m not sure if worms are kept in cans, and then why would one need to open them if now going fishing? Perhaps it might be safer just opening a “Pandora’s Box” but then we might have to address the ‘elephant in the room’.

Language is wonderful. We used words to share information, to convey meaning, and to elicit an emotional response. Words can inspire, persuade, and convince but they can also destroy and even kill.

We can paint pictures with our words, in our imaginations, and in the imaginations of others. For millennia, we have told stories and employed rhetorical devices often borrowed from literature to communicate to the world.

But sometimes the images we create can have an adverse effect. We allow ourselves to become crippled by debt, crucified by taxes and might even end up dying from a cold. Many might identify with the feeling of being immobilised or tortured by their circumstances. Both these images, however, convey a sense of powerlessness, of helplessness, of not being able to do anything to extricate oneself from one’s circumstances.

What can be worse is that we often use language when speaking to ourselves. We risk continuing to be immobilised long after the debt is paid and tortured by our circumstances and life events.

Rhetorical devices can be powerful in literature, in business and even in our day-to-day living but like all ‘devices’, we are advised to turn them off occasionally. Sometimes, we need a language detox! Advocates of meditation often speak about becoming the observer of our thoughts, of becoming conscious; of developing our awareness; and of experiencing nothingness.

Awareness is key, and the key to awareness is clarity, of being able to see something clearly. We might say seeing something as ‘black and white’ but even that expression lacks clarity,

If we take debt, for example, it might be as simple as taking a pen and paper, writing down the amount owed and then writing a list of expenses and seeing what actions can be taken to improve the situation. In the process, recognise and acknowledge any thoughts or images that emerge as just thoughts and images, some useful, others not! Great innovations and solutions very often emerge from a much deeper place within us. To access that deeper place, we sometimes need to quieten the noises in our head, to tone down the language, to “call a spade, a spade’ Aagh!! There I go again, but you know what I mean – call a bill, a bill, a cold a cold and that elephant in the room, a topic that needs to be discussed.

The late author Richard Carlson in his book “Stop Thinking, Start Living” (Carlson, 2012) recommends that to avoid confusion, anxiety and overstimulation, we need to develop the ability to dismiss thoughts when they enter our mind. The average person will have 50,000 thoughts in an average day, and not all are useful to us.

Reality is closer than we think and it is important in our week, and in our day to factor in a few ‘reality checks’, just stop for a second, take a few deep breaths and notice how we are feeling, notice what our mood is like after spending time on social media, or watching the news, or coming in from an autumnal walk in the forest.

Nothing is real, only that present moment for us, and our experience of it.

It is really useful also to become aware of the language we use in our head, is it possible to tone down the rhetoric? Perhaps try “I feel hungry” rather than “I’m starved” or, “I feel tired, rather than “I’m exhausted”.

In our dealings with other people, our family, and our work colleagues, it is also useful to be aware of the language we are using. I was on a flight recently which announced that it had to make an emergency landing. After the cabin crew advised passengers to wear warm clothing and gave a quick demonstration on what to do on landing, there was a surreal calm silence as the plane circulated the countryside to burn off fuel for the following 30 minutes. An opportunity in the face of disaster for some perspective, clarity, and no need for hyperbole or superlatives. So, in a work conversation a few days later, when a minor difficulty was described as a ‘disaster’, there was an opportunity to reappraise the situation.

Of course, it is important to occasionally tone down the language that we use, and there are other occasions to ramp up the rhetoric “….when the multitudes they flock in throngs to the true capital of Ireland where the world’s finest minds will congregate….”

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