COVID-19 needs no introduction. It’s the talk of the town all over the world and mentioned daily on every news outlet and social media platform.
This series of articles is not about COVID-19. It’s about you.
Our newsletter Weathering the Storm is a source of curated tips and strategies to help you weather the COVID-19 storm. This newsletter is inspired by actual clients* and written by experienced psychologists.
*All client names are fictional and presenting issues are composites of client experiences.
Since the onset of Covid-19, Julie’s been reading the news and watching daily press conferences, eagerly waiting to find out when things will go back to ‘‘normal’’. She’s angry she isn’t getting clear answers quickly enough. Every time she thinks about it, she gets upset, and it spoils her mood for the rest of the day.
What if one sentence could help Julie snap out of an irritable or angry state ?
One of the most powerful methods to snap out of an irritable or angry mood is the Semantic Method.
The spirit behind the Semantic Method is to reshape an angering thought using less upsetting words. To get this done, Julie needs to find the hidden “should” in her thoughts. When angry or irritated, there’s always a “should” thought lurking around in our head.
“Should” is probably the most toxic thought in the English language because when things don’t happen the way they “should”, it by definition leads to disappointment, which easily leads to irritation and anger.
For Julie, a possible “should” thought in this situation would be “My employer should have provided me with more information by now ”.
Once we’ve identified the ‘’should’’ thought, the second step is to reshape it using different, less upsetting words. Specifically, using this 3 part sentence: (1) It would have been nicer/better/easier if …, (2) but it didn’t happen, (3) and it’s not the end of the world.
For Julie, reformulating her ‘’should’’ thought would look like this : ‘‘It would have been easier if my employer provided the information, but they didn’t, and it’s not the end of the world.”
What’s the benefit of each part of this sentence?
- Part (1) – “It would have been easier/better if….”This helps us acknowledge our wishes. Stating this helps us feel like our preferences are valid, true and important.
- Part (2): “…but they didn’t…”This reminds us to accept reality for what it is. The more we’re able to accept things we cannot change, the easier it is for us to cope with the situation at hand.
- Part (3): “…and it’s not the end of the world”. Stating this helps us bring our situation into perspective. Taking a step back like this helps us feel less irritated or angry, allowing us to focus on what we already have as opposed to what we don’t. Sometimes it’s difficult to get perspective. To help you do so, ask yourself how you would rate the situation you’re in on a scale from zero to 100, zero being not problematic at all and 100 being “the end of the world’’, defined as what you would imagine the ‘’end of the world’’ looking like.
Doing this simple exercise helps relativize things. Who knew 1 sentence could be so powerful ?
So next time you get irritated or angry, why not give the Semantic method a try ?
We welcome you to leave comments as well as questions in the discussion section so we can try to answer some of them in upcoming posts.
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