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Why some of us see life's problems as mere 'setbacks' while others see 'abject disaster'

By Joseph Pond

I invite you to ask yourself a crazy question.  Where do your problems come from?  Oh, I know none of us have enough money, sex or prestige, but apart from those considerations, why do some people tend to see bumps in the road as momentary setbacks while other people experience the same situations as abject disasters?

I’ll give you a crazy answer.  To a very large extent, we “language” our problems into existence.  To put it another way, language is the medium by which humans define, interpret, measure and solidify our realities.

The Buddhists emphasise “right speech” but as a hypnotist, I’m most concerned about right self-speech.  For example, I had a friend who always complained of people “pushing his buttons”.  Although he realised that this was just a metaphor, he still lived in a constant state of irritation as though he really was a machine with buttons.

When a client says, “I’m depressed” it reminds me of a fairytale where the witch waves her wand and says, “You’re a frog.” A major similarity between these statements of identity (“I  am ... sad/stupid/lonely, etc.”) and a witch’s curse is that they rarely include an exit strategy.

Clients rarely say, “In the past, up to but not necessarily including this moment, I have felt in certain contexts waves of sensations which I have, up to now, called depression.”

Thinking this way opens up a world of possibilities. I invite you to take three statements you habitually use to make yourself feel bad, and substitute them for ones that are less impactful. 

For example, instead of “he drives me insane”, try “he ruffles my feathers”. 

Then, take your positive expressions and turn up the juice.  Replace, “I’m okay,” with, “I’m fantastic”.  Write these changes down and practice them until they become automatic. This may sound too simple to be effective, but language is one of the most potent ways we have of maintaining our maps of reality. 

All of our beliefs, our values and our assumptions are encoded linguistically, as statements. 

I challenge you to explore the way you speak to yourself and the metaphors you use.

Joseph Pond is a clinical hypnotherapist, an acupuncturist, and a mindfulness instructor. He is co-founder of Hypnosis Explorers NI and sits on the National Board of NLP and Hypnotherapy. Reach him at

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