What is the dangerous word? Did you think that it was No? That word isn’t a problem, because when someone says No, you can always choose Yes, or Maybe, if you like.
Or perhaps the problem words are these: can’t, or won’t, or isn’t. No, it is not those. And not words like impossible, or difficult, or challenging. You can confront these words, because you are aware of them.
Or did you think that the dangerous word was something hateful or negative? It’s not that, either. When you hear those words, you recognize them, and you can address them.
This dangerous word is different, because it seems to be quite innocent. It is a short, almost invisible word — only two letters. This word fools you, because it makes your mind reconstruct the world in a limited way. This is a form of mind magic, where your mind is led to see something that isn’t there.
This mischievous word fools your mind: is. For example: he is sad; she is bad.
The simple word, Is, often makes a bold, un-provable claim. It pretends that a person, place, or thing has a basic quality that entirely defines that person, place, or thing. For example:
He is troublesome. But you really mean, sometimes he expresses himself in a way that you find challenging. Unfortunately, now you’ve named him as being intrinsically troublesome, and this could affect how you speak to him, and that will naturally affect how he speaks to you, too.
She is petty. Well, not all the time. In fact, she may express that quality only occasionally. But the problem here is that you have named her as petty, as if that were part of her nature. And having named her as that, you’ll tend to see her as perpetually petty.
They are argumentative. Well, evidently they feel whatever they’re speaking about fairly strongly. But once you name them as essentially argumentative, then you lose sight of their motives and underlying beliefs, because you think you know all about them — they’re intrinsically argumentative, according to your label.
How does the word, Is, and its cousins Are and Am, perform this deceptive magic?
The word Is makes it seem that something is permanently true. For example, this country Is the land of the free. Or, this country Is going to the dogs. In both cases, this country, which is a multi-faceted place, is being labeled. Once you label it, your thinking becomes fixated in a particular way. This narrows your thinking, as if the country has the permanent quality that the word Is led you to be fixated by.
What is the problem with saying that the country is great, or that the country isn’t great? What you really mean is that there are certain things about the country that you admire, or certain things that you are concerned about. It’s easier to address specific issues when you name them as particular issues or qualities.
However, when the country Is this quality or Isn’t that quality, then you are behaving as if the country is intrinsically good or bad. And it isn’t, because nothing is intrinsically any particular way.
Why does the word Is barely attract your attention?
This word, Is, isn’t the main part of any statement, so you don’t notice it. It seems to be just a connecting word that strings some ideas together. Almost like a friendly, helpful word — but it may be something else entirely. It weaves a magical spell over your mind that you barely notice.
Suppose you make a statement about your friend — John is happy. You could take the word Is out of the statement, and you would still understand the sentence — you would get the general idea that someone named John is generally happy, or at least is happy now.
Well, that doesn’t seem so bad, but that is why Is creates such a difficulty for your mind. You don’t notice what it’s doing to your perception. Let’s explore how Is, and Are, and Am perform their magic manipulations upon your mind, because these words may become potentially dangerous for your mental and emotional well-being.
Suppose you are talking about yourself. Perhaps you are saying something like this:
I am happy — or I am sad — or I am mad…
You say that you Are happy — but that statement is already creating a problem for you. The statement, because of the pesky word Are, suggests that you are exclusively happy. But is that always so? No, you are a multifaceted being, capable of expressing many emotions in various circumstances. Under the surface, even when you appear to be happy, there are other emotions. And when you appear to be sad, that too is only one layer of your actual experience.
You, the multidimensional being
Why is it dangerous to label yourself? Who cares if you say that you Are this or that? The instant you make a label about what you are, your subconscious recognizes that many other descriptions are also true. That makes you feel inauthentic, because you are saying that you Are this or that, and your subconscious knows that isn’t quite so.
But isn’t it better to say that you Are something good, rather than saying that you Are something bad? Maybe somewhat better, but barely so, because both of these limiting descriptions label you, and this creates problems. Saying that you Are bad, or that your life Is bad, is like being stuck in a bad movie. And you don’t want to be programmed that way.
You might have the clever idea just now, that since you don’t want to be programmed with the discouraging idea that you Are a bad person, that you’ll say, instead, that you Are a good person. That creates problems too, because, in fact, you are beyond good and bad. You are a multidimensional being, made of divine substance, and divine substance is beyond all labels.
Once you say that you Are good, you’re creating the possibility that your subconscious will try to prove otherwise.
But if you don’t want to say that you Are good, or that you Are bad, what are you to do? Well, why let yourself be labeled as good or bad? Consider this option: Why couldn’t you aim yourself in a good direction? That might sound like the same thing, but there is a world of difference there.
When you are aiming in a good direction, then you aren’t labeling yourself. This means you aren’t creating resistance, tempting fate, creating a wall between yourself and others, or otherwise getting into emotional or mental mischief.
What happens when you label another person with the magic Is word?
For example, when you define your friend Mary in a certain way:
– She is successful. But, 100 percent? And what defines success, anyway?
– She is happy. All the time? Is that possible?
– She is beautiful. Does that imply that you are not?
What’s wrong with saying these complimentary descriptions about Mary? Maybe she is seemingly just what your words positive words describe. The problem with saying that someone Is something is that the instant you define these labels, your subconscious makes comparisons. It looks for ways that you are less than Mary, or ways that you are equal to, or more than Mary.
And especially, your descriptions limit your ability to perceive Mary as she really is — a multidimensional being. Your labels of her limit your ability to learn from her. Labels filter how you perceive Mary, so that you don’t recognize her multifaceted nature. For example, if you name her as successful, then you might not notice that her apparent success is the result of decades of hard, focused work.
Labeling her as successful makes it seem that this is her essential nature. It isn’t, though, because she acquired what some people label as Success by following practices, strategies, and ways of living — and these ingredients to success are hidden when you label her as naturally successful.
To be fair to Mary, she is a unique individual, and is not what you have labeled her to be, even if your labels seem positive. But if you aren’t going to use positive labels, does that mean that she is unsuccessful, unhappy, and unattractive? No — those unfortunate descriptions don’t fit her either. In fact, your saying that she Is happy or Is unhappy creates a limited way of understanding her, and these limiting descriptions may affect you as well.
Why is your description of her going to affect your own mind? Is it possible that these troublesome words actually put you in an altered state of consciousness that limits you?
How labels trap your consciousness in limitation — how to liberate yourself
The instant you say that Mary Is this or Is that, your perception limits itself by seeing Mary through the limiting words you have just used to describe her. But what if you really do see aspects of Mary that are successful, for example? Let’s go back to the examples listed above, and explore options so that your descriptions don’t limit yourself, or limit Mary either.
– She is successful.
Use this opportunity to notice her behavior, her strategies, and anything that gives you insight about how she functions. This helps you discover something useful about Mary, the person whom you have labeled successful. However, when you let go of the label, you discover that Mary practices certain behaviors, specific actions and helpful habits, and useful strategies that lead to what you have labeled as success.
When you understand those habits and strategies, you learn something that might inspire you and give you valuable insights. You now have recognized potentially useful strategies. However, the successful versus unsuccessful label interferes with your clear understanding of the situation.
– She is happy.
Use this opportunity to notice the actions and strategies that she is using. You may be able to learn something here about creating happiness. One thing you learn is that there is no such thing as a so-called happy person, because that implies that some people are naturally that way, and that some people are not. You may discover that so-called happy people utilize effective strategies and take useful actions. That’s important information for you — the happy versus unhappy label is not helpful, however.
– She is beautiful.
The advertisers and the media love to control you with this one. When they convince you that a certain body type, or height, or weight, or manner of dress or behavior is beautiful, you are so surrounded by those messages that it is difficult to confront them.
Shifting this way of perceiving takes a bit of work. It involves making the shift back and forth between general and specific thinking. Learning how to do this helps you get your power back from the labels that limit your understanding.
The power of general and specific awareness, and how to use it
Suppose you have labeled someone — she is beautiful. The media programming would tell you that the right bone structure, right proportion, and right manner and dress are why someone is beautiful. But there is something more profound to learn here…
When you look at different people, let yourself ask this empowering question:
What unique qualities of beauty are found within this specific person?
Now you can discover different aspects of beauty that you didn’t see a moment ago. For example, you notice that beauty can express itself in many subtle ways: as quiet elegance; as a peaceful quality; as a gentle quality; as a dynamic quality; as a focused quality; and in an infinite number of other ways.
The benefit of freeing yourself from saying something overly simplistic — she is beautiful — is that you can more easily discover the many varieties of beauty within each person you meet, and within yourself. You have made the shift from a vague, general definition of beauty that limits you. You have shifted to the specific discovery about unique, real qualities of beauty that you can discover with each person, and each situation.
Does this mean that you shouldn’t practice the kind of affirmation where you label yourself in positive ways? The idea that you should question a seemingly positive practice, such as affirmations, may seem a bit surprising at first. Consider this, though. Many people find that when they do affirmations, they experience resistance — a backlash that emerges within their mind. There is a good reason for this.
The instant that you say that you Are this or Are that, your mind notices that you are making a claim that it doesn’t recognize as entirely true.
How to generate healthy affirmations
But how can you make effective use of affirmations, then? Notice the difference in each of the following affirmation groups. In each case, the first so-called positive affirmation creates limitations by using the problematic Is. Then, the options show you how to bypass resistance that the problematic Is, Are, and Am words label and limit you with:
Creates limitation: I am happy.
Allows options: I let happiness flow through me.
Allows options: I access the happiness potential within me.
Creates limitation: I am strong.
Allows options: I breathe in strength.
Allows options: I access the strength within me.
Creates limitation: I am a good person.
Allows options: I breathe in goodness.
Allows options: I access the goodness within me.
Do you see the trend here? When you name yourself as something that you Are, you create resistance. When you let yourself access a quality within you, or you breathe that quality into yourself, you aren’t boxing yourself in with a claustrophobic label. You are simply letting yourself be open to something.
This is freedom. When you have access to something that you are interested in, then you don’t have to yearn for it. Now that you have a way to resonate with the energy you prefer, you don’t feel separate from it. You aren’t comparing yourself to anyone else, either. The qualities you would like more of are there for you, without striving, and without resistance. This makes the process easier and more enjoyable.
Making the shift from labeling yourself is fairly easy to do — at least, the technique is easy. But the challenge with implementing this is that the old programming is deep.
No matter what you do to find your inner multidimensional self, there will always be the ever-helpful media to imply that such-and-such a celebrity Is happier and more splendid than you are. Or, that if you would purchase a particular product, you will then be happy and fulfilled. Just like magic — deceptive magic that is ungrounded in reality, but that weaves its spell to entrance you in its magic promise of the perfect lifestyle that you supposedly desire.
Why deceptive words are negative magical spells — what you can do about it
It’s easy to say that you Are this, or that he or she Is that. Actually, it’s too easy. You do it all the time, and you think you’re being rational, but you’re not. You’re indulging in dangerous word magic, and manipulating yourself to believe in limiting nonsense that alters your perception.
If it’s deceptive nonsense to say that you Are this or that, then it’s equally ridiculous to say that he Is this or that. Or that they Are such and such. But how can you talk about reality if you don’t make those observations? After all, if a gentleman speaks to you in a rude way, what’s wrong with saying that he Is a rude character?
This might sound like a silly distinction, but consider that he is not rude. He did, of course, speak rudely to you. It sounds like a subtle distinction to say this, but making this shift could save your sanity. Here’s why:
If you insist that he Is rude, then you’re claiming that that’s what he intrinsically is. And there’s no hope for any other options to exist — after all, you’ve stated, essentially, that rudeness Is his core nature. So once you label him by saying that he Is a rude person, then you will tend to recreate that situation. It is as if you have chosen to tune into him at a certain frequency, like choosing a radio station that features rudeness programming.
But isn’t it contradictory or delusional to notice his rude statement, and then to proclaim that he isn’t rude? No — there is an important difference here: His statement may be rude, but he isn’t essentially rude. Like you, he is a multifaceted being. It’s much easier for you to address his statement, than to be confronting a person who Is intrinsically rude.
A special case
By the way, if you are wondering if this distinction also applies to sociopaths and psychopaths, consider that such persons may require special handling. However, your ability to make these subtle distinctions in labeling people still holds true. Making these awareness shifts by being aware of your use of language keeps you from being trapped in a limited universe. Basically, use the techniques to the best of your ability, but don’t get stuck in these, or any other techniques. In other words, if someone is consistently behaving crazily, keep your distance.
A challenging situation
Now what do you do with the fellow who behaved rudely? Here is a place to start: What do you have in common with someone who made a rude statement to you? Probably many things, but to start, recognize that you do have some things in common. List them, and shift from labeling the person as rude, to seeing some of his statements or behaviors as rude.
And from there, you can re-label the statements and behaviors as strong, impassioned, or emotional. Gradually you free yourself from labeling him as intrinsically rude, and he becomes a multifaceted person who has some behaviors that you don’t always agree with.
To help you access these awareness shifts, here are some visualizations to free you from some of the labels that you’ve created. You can use these awareness shifts to address your responses to people you admire, people you judge or fear, and people you don’t understand.
Six visualizations to transcend the false labels that limit your awareness:
1. Imagine people whom you label as successful —
– Awareness shift: Notice their posture, behavior, and any useful patterns that come to your attention.
– Healthy action: Imagine these qualities as energies, and let yourself breathe in these energies. Breathe in only as much of these energies as you feel comfortable with.
– Healthy action: Determine which of those empowering behaviors are within your capability, and explore utilizing them for yourself.
2. Imagine people who have emotional qualities that you admire —
– Awareness shift: Pretend that those people have let themselves breathe in the energies of those positive qualities.
– Healthy action: Now imagine that those positive energies are available for you, too. Breathe them in.
3. Notice people who have patterns that you don’t care for —
– Awareness shift: Sense, perhaps for the first time, that such people are made of divine substance.
– Awareness shift: Take a moment to notice how they are part of the fabric of universal energy.
– Healthy action: Now notice how you feel about these people, now that you recognize that, though different from you, they are participating in the same universal fabric that everything in the universe consists of.
4. Sense the qualities within you that you would like to change —
– Awareness shift: Notice how freeing it is to know that those are not your intrinsic qualities.
– Awareness shift: They are energies or patterns that you have somehow become associated with.
– Awareness shift: Notice how these energies and patterns are not you.
– Healthy action: Sense yourself as part of the universal fabric of divine energy.
– Healthy action: Notice how you can release some of these energies more easily now, because you know that those qualities are temporary, and they are not intrinsically you.
5. See all of these people — the ones you admire, the ones you don’t, and your own self — all breathing in universal energy —
– Awareness shift: Notice how you aren’t a label, and no one else is a label, either.
– Healthy action: Breathe in that new possibility — freedom from labels — and experience how freeing this is.
6. See the mischievous words — he Is this; she Is that; they Are such and such; I Am such and so; etc. —
– Awareness shift: See these false labels for what they are — words that claim that something is so.
– Awareness shift: Recognize that everything is so vast and multifaceted that it couldn’t be any particular label.
– Healthy action: Breathe in the universal energy, and see these labels as the silly game that they really are.
– Healthy action: Feel the universal presence within you without giving it words — just be with it as a wordless knowing.
It would be nice if freedom from labels could be achieved with no effort. However, freedom of thought requires some attention, because you are surrounded by the phenomena — people are always labeling. People are quite willing to say that he Is that, or she Is that. And, out of habit, you may still find yourself indulging in this limiting tendency. So don’t blame yourself, and don’t blame people.
Just let yourself notice these fascinating patterns. You’ll be amazed at how you can gently free yourself from the magic words of deception when you quietly notice them every day.
It’s somewhat like noticing the sugar added to so many processed foods. Read the ingredients, notice them, but don’t judge the situation. You can quietly make your own healthy choices without drama and judgment.
Letting go of limiting language needs to be done with the same gentle skill. If you get too emotional about it, then you’re likely to become trapped. You know you’re getting trapped in the syndrome when you’re upset because of all the labels. When you’re too upset by the labels, then you’re stuck in a trap — you’re labeling the labels. Learn to be amused by the silliness of it all.
And if you get paranoid about it, then you become unbalanced. Remember that the words themselves are not bad. They are not cursed or toxic in themselves. You can even use the words Is, Are, and Am in safe ways. But be mindful that they are commonly used in ways that generate limited perceptions that ensnare you.
How will you respond when you hear Is statements? If not with fear, then how can you respond in healthy ways?
Healthy responses to limiting statements
Notice how the following limiting statements generate polarities. When you create polarized situations, you might generate the opposite of what you really want. Notice how the unlimited statements include a broader range of possibilities. Observe, too, how the word Is shifts from troublesome to helpful, depending how it is used:
1. Limiting, polarizing: God is love.
Notice how this sets up the opposite — What about flash floods where everyone drowns?
1. Unlimited expression: God is all things, including love.
2. Limiting, polarizing: I am OK.
Notice how this sets up the question — What about those flaws and imperfections?
2. Unlimited expression: I bless my many aspects.
3. Limiting, polarizing: This is a sacred space.
Notice how this sets up the fear — What if something in the space is holding bad energy?
3. Unlimited expression: Sacred presence flows in this space.
4. Limiting, polarizing: I am a good person.
Notice how this sets up the opposite — What if something in me is not good?
4. Unlimited expression: I let the goodness within me flow.
But really, are you a good person?
If you let yourself be fooled by that question, it is because the word Are makes it seem that you are exclusively good, and that creates immediate opposition. Actually, you’re beyond good. Your essential cosmic nature transcends all these pesky labels. You’re made of divine, unlimited energy, and any label that you Are this or Are that tends to limit you.
What to do? Breathe in some universal energy, and discover the deeper consciousness that you can feel in this present moment. Let yourself recognize your infinite nature — the universal quality that is too vast to ever be labeled. Maybe you can’t put it in words — but you don’t have to. Just sense it, and discover the deeper truth that has no name.
Joel Bruce Wallach