Monday, February 25, 2013

The Language of Anorexia

I read a really interesting article from the TEDblog this week about how the grammatical idiosyncrasies of the different languages we speak modify how we think.  It's a really quick read found here, but I'll give you a an example in an excerpt...
"In English, we’ll often say that someone broke a vase even if it was an accident, but Spanish and Japanese speakers tend to say that the vase broke itself...English speakers were much more likely to remember who accidentally popped balloons, broke eggs, or spilled drinks in a video than Spanish or Japanese speakers." 
Fascinating, right?  It got me thinking about the misunderstandings, miscommunications and cultural differences that cause us to inadvertently hurt each other.   It took me a really long time to understand that Steven and I were speaking different languages when it came to food.  To him, it's just food.  No emotional attachment, just something he does to keep his body running, and something he sort of enjoys.  To me, it's about a zillion times more complicated.  He would innocently make comments to me that I thought were so hurtful until we sorted it out.

And in that spirit, I bring you...

The Language of Anorexia

Said: Wow, you eat fast!
Heard: You are a giant pig, you fatty-fat face.  You disgust me.  You can't wait for one more second to shove that food into your big fat face?  You are gross.

Said: Did you eat the last brownie?
Heard: You couldn't help yourself but to hoover down that brownie into your big fat mouth, could you?  You are selfish and you have no self control.

Said: Are you hungry?
Heard: You probably always want to eat because you're such a chub.  

I sincerely wish I could say these examples are hyperbole, but they are truly, honestly the things I hear.  In the middle of a perfectly pleasant conversation, all of the sudden I feel about an inch tall: humiliated, ashamed, defensive, hurt.

There is no way that we can anticipate what every one's languages and sensitivities are.  I think it's foolish to even try.  But maybe even recognizing that they're there can help us understand each other a little better.  To be more careful with our words.  And maybe to ask the people that we love if we are quietly hurting them, or to speak up when we're being hurt.

What's your language?

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