Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Steven Handel - Mind Is a Verb, Not a Noun

This post comes from Steven Handel at The Emotion Machine, a self-help and personal growth site dedicated to providing "a wide range of resources, information, tools, and techniques to help guide individuals toward living happier and more successful lives."

This is kind of a lite article, but the basic point is valid. We do need to be aware of nominalizations (nouns that describe an ongoing process of thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and outcomes in our lives that we associate with the idea), especially ones such as mind or consciousness, both of which are ongoing processes, not static things.

Handel takes on slightly lesser nominalizations: “happiness,” “confidence,” and “motivation.”

Mind Is A Verb, Not A Noun

JUNE 6TH, 2013

When talking about our minds, we have a tendency to take complicated processes and treat them as simplified things. For example, we say we want “happiness” or “confidence” or “motivation” but how do we know when we really have them?

These things aren’t something you can see, hear, touch, taste, or smell, they aren’t something you can buy at a store, and they aren’t something you can carry around with you in your pocket wherever you go.

So what do we mean when we talk about “happiness,” “confidence,” “motivation,” or other aspects of our mind? What are we really referring to?

These concepts are what is known as a nominalization. They are nouns, but they describe an ongoing process of thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and outcomes in our lives that we associate with the idea of “happiness,” “confidence,” or “motivation.”

Often we treat these attributes of our mind as nouns – things that we either “have” or “don’t have” – but they are really verbs, which means they need to be exercised and practiced, and they can’t be owned or possessed in the same way you own a car, or house, or TV.

Nominalizations makes it easier to talk about complex processes by fitting them neatly into a single concept – but often they can mislead us or hide important information, especially if we don’t understand the complicated nature of the thing we are nominalizing.

You can learn to better understand these nominalizations by asking yourself important question about the actual processes that lie underneath “happiness,” “confidence,” or “motivation.”

For example, if you want to find out more about the nominalization of “happiness,” you should ask yourself questions like:
  • “To be happy, what kind of thoughts would I need to think?”
  • “To be happy, what kind of feelings would I need to feel?”
  • “To be happy, what kind of actions would I need to do?”
  • “To be happy, what kind of relationships would I need to build?”
  • “To be happy, what kind of outcomes would I need to experience?”
Your answers to these questions will give you a clearer idea of what “happiness” is, and what kind of things you need to do to actually practice happiness in your life.

The whole point is that these concepts like “happiness,” “confidence” and “motivation” need to be thought of as ongoing processes. You don’t do just one thing to “get” them and then you “have” them forever, you have to continuously work at them on a daily basis. They are actions, not objects.

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