Looking it up in the dictionary won’t help.

By David Joel Miller.

Please don’t say look it up in the dictionary.

Dictionary

Looking it up in the dictionary won’t help.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

A lot of people think the way to find the one “true, correct” meaning of a word is to look it up in the dictionary. It is just not that simple. The problem with agreeing on the meaning of the word psychology is a good example.

Depending on your age, the historical period you attended school, and the education system you attended, you probably used a very different dictionary. For my grandmother’s generation, the preferred dictionary was probably the Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia. For my generation, it was most likely Webster’s dictionary. Today the most likely choice is likely to be one of the online dictionaries. The more dictionaries you use, the more definitions you get.

The written and spoken words existed before the dictionaries.

The way the early dictionaries were created was to collect examples of how the words were used and then based on that context describe the meaning the writer had in mind. Older dictionaries might include a larger number of meanings or a particular word. Examples they listed would be heavy with quotations from Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Dickens, but probably also included many examples from other lesser known authors. The writing came first, and that determined the meaning, not the other way around.

New words keep getting added to the dictionary as they are created. Existing words may have additional meaning added to their description as people using existing word in a new way.

Professions have highly specialized dictionaries.

In interpreting legal documents and court orders, lawyers don’t refer to the same dictionary you might be using. They commonly look words up in “Black’s Law Dictionary.” People who work in the mental health field may use the DSM-5 or the ICD. Other professionals have their own specialized dictionaries.

Professional vocabularies are supposed to be used in very precise ways. In diagnosing bipolar disorder, there are specific criteria for a manic episode, a hypomanic episode, and a major depressive episode. The specific variety of bipolar disorder is diagnosed using these episodes.

When people today describe someone as bipolar, but they’re often describing is someone who is moody, irritable, or grouchy. Other times the term is applied to someone who’s moods change quickly. All these ways the word bipolar is being used may have little to do with the technical definition of bipolar disorder.

The term narcissism in psychology describes the trait of feeling good about yourself roughly the equivalent of self-esteem. In mental health, narcissism refers to  Narcissistic Personality Disorder a serious mental illness.

Researchers may create “operational” definitions.

For research, psychologists might define a characteristic based on the score on a verbal screening instrument. People scoring above a certain number on the depression scale are considered depressed.

On an IQ scale, those with a score of 84 or below could be described as having intellectual challenges or disabilities, scoring 85 or above would be considered normal. Other than on that one test that one day, these two people might be impossible to tell apart.

There is a difference between denotative and connotative meanings.

Denotative meanings, those are the meanings that form the bulk of the contents of dictionaries. Hot, cool, and cold, these words all describe temperature. Scientists might define this in terms of the energy state of molecules. But in popular culture, those words, hot or cool might describe the newest, in, popular, music or personality, or fashion style.

Can you see how looking it up in the dictionary doesn’t always solve communication problems?

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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How to restart a bad day.

By David Joel Miller.

If your day is off to a bad start, you can restart it.

starting your day over.

Restart Your Day.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Have you ever gotten up and had something go very wrong first thing in the morning? Remember the day you went out to find your car had a flat tire? Maybe you spilled something on that brand-new outfit you just put on.

Those of you in relationships, or with school-age children, probably know exactly what I am talking about. They are just so many ways a day can get off to a bad start.

Was your first thought “this is going to be a bad day?” Thinking that, expecting the worst, is a sure way to create a terrible day. The secret you need to know is that no matter what has happened so far today there are ways to restart that day. You do not need to let small things first thing in the morning cascade into a simply dreadful rest of the day.

Some of you are probably thinking that some days in your life, something awful did happen. I grant you that the major things in life may take more than one day to get past. However, for the bulk of things that set people’s days off in the wrong direction, there are some ways to reset that day and make a difficulty into a small set back.

Here are some techniques for resetting a day that is off to a bad start.

Take a deep breath.

When something happens to knock you off your game, the first thing most people do is hold their breath. Some people begin to breathe rapidly and shallowly. The result of failing to breathe normally is to increase your anxiety. When your brain feels a shortage of oxygen, it goes into a panic mode, anything to get some more air.

Pause long enough to take some deep breaths, linger over those breaths and give yourself enough time for that oxygen to reach your brain. Deep and slow breathing is a sure antidote for the anxiety that takes over when you have had a setback first thing in the morning.

Center yourself.

When you begin to feel scattered, look for a way to center yourself. Some people find a simple prayer helpful. You might have a favorite poem, quotation, or personal affirmation, that you find useful in bringing yourself back to the present.

Many people use a small object as a way of grounding themselves. Whether it is a religious object, a rock or something else from nature, or a small object that brings back happy memories, objects can be very useful in centering yourself.

Move around, take a walk.

Fear likes to shut things down. Once one problem happens, you are likely to freeze. Don’t stay stuck there ruminating about how bad this day will go. Unstick yourself, move around a little bit, go for a short walk, or do a few simple exercises. Some stretching exercises or yoga postures can go a long way toward shifting your focus away from the issue.

Straighten up your environment.

When your life is feeling out of control, getting back control of even a little bit of space can be helpful. Did something spill or break? Cleaning it up is a first step in regaining control. Got a mass of bills, mail that needs an answer? Go through the mail, throw away or delete the junk and the duplicate items. Getting organized can cut that mountain of paperwork down to a manageable size.

Use your support system.

Feeling overwhelmed? Try reconnecting with your support system. A phone call to a family member or friend can turn your day around. Even a brief email or short text can help you shift your attitude and get you going again.

Plan something fun.

Today doesn’t look so gloomy when you have something to look forward to. It is easier to get through today when you have something positive to look forward to. As adults, we often forget how to play. Avoid the kind of fun that can result in a physical or emotional hangover. Get together with positive friends. Spend time with pets. Take yourself to a movie or the park.

Listen to your music.

Find a way to play your tunes. Look for music and songs that put you in a good mood. People in a negative mood often play sad or angry music. Make it a point to search out and collect up positive and relaxing tunes.

Say a prayer.

Many people will tell you about their religious faith, but when things are going wrong, they often forget to have a conversation with that higher power they report they believe in. Prayers don’t need to be reserved the life-and-death moments, the end of the world, try asking for the strength to get through the daily difficulties.

Meditate.

Meditating does not need to be complicated. Clear your mind of distractions and focus on something positive. Think about a happy place you have been, maybe a time you went to the mountain or the beach. The more time you spend focused on the positive, the more your happiness expands. Focus on the negative, and it obliterates those happy memories.

Read something inspirational.

Seek out inspiration. Keep a helpful book at hand. When you find things that are helpful, copy them down and save them for the next time you need to restart your day. Collect helpful saying that will help you to reset the next day that starts out the wrong direction.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Today Spring is officially here.

Today Spring is officially here.

Post by David Joel Miller.

Spring flowers

Spring is here.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

While Sunday was the day on which many people celebrated Easter, and thought about spring, today is the official start of the season of renewal.

Spring.

“Meanwhile, spring came, and with it the outpourings of Nature. The hills were soon splashed with wild flowers; the grass became an altogether new and richer shade of green; and the air became scented with fresh and surprising smells — of jasmine, honeysuckle, and lavender.”

― Dalai Lama XIV, Freedom in Exile: The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama

“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want—oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”

― Mark Twain

“Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm.”

― John Muir, The Wilderness World of John Muir

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

Cheerful.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

Cheerful picture.

Cheerful.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Cheerfulness.

Mirth, and even cheerfulness, when employed as remedies in low spirits, are like hot water to a frozen limb.

– Benjamin Rush

Cheerfulness, it would appear, is a matter which depends fully as much on the state of things within, as on the state of things without and around us.

– Charlotte Bronte

“The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer someone else up.”

–  Mark Twain

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

Joy.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

Joy

Joy.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Joy.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

― Dr. Seuss

“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.”

― Mark Twain

“A flower blossoms for its own joy.”

― Oscar Wilde

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

Amused.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

amusement

Amused.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Amused

“I have found that the key to being happy — well, one of the keys, anyway — is to be easily amused,”

― Wil Wheaton

“amusement is a sort of relaxation, and we need relaxation because we cannot work continuously.”

― Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics

“Never miss a good chance to shut up.”

― Will Rogers

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.