Making a comparison
Another form of judgment is the use of comparisons. Dan Greenberg in the book "How to Make Yourself Miserable" suggested that if readers have a sincere desire to make life miserable for themselves, they might learn to compare themselves to other people. He provides a few exercises: compare yourself to person whose body is the ideal physical beauty by contemporary media standards. Compare yourself to Mozart's accomplishments at age 12.
Another kind of life-alienating communication is denial of responsibility.
Communication is life-alienating when it clouds our awareness that we are each responsible for our own thoughts, feelings, and actions. The use of the common expression "have to" as in "there are some things you have to do whether you like it or not," illustrates how personal responsibility for our actions can be obscured in speech.
We deny responsibility for our actions when we attribute their cause to factors outside ourselves:
- Vague, impersonal forces -for example "I cleaned my room because I had to. "
- Our condition, diagnosis, or personal or psychological history -I drink because I'm an alcoholic.
- The actions of others -I hit my child because he ran into the street.
- The dictates of authority- I lied to the client because the boss told me too.
- Group pressure -I started smoking because all my friends did.
- Institutional policies, rules and regulations -I have to suspend you for this infraction because it's the school policy.
- Gender roles, social rules, or age roles -I hate going to work, but I do it because I'm a husband and a father.
- Uncontrollable impulses -I was overcome by my urge to eat the candy bar.
We can replace language that implies lack of choice for language that acknowledges choice. Why do people do that? Here's a clue, "but I don't like saying it that way. It makes me feel so responsible for what I am doing."