Learning to surf

Anyone who watched my video on surviving lockdown knows how important I think it is to keep up a steady routine and engage in activities that are all about mindfulness and meaning. So, in a case of putting my money where my mouth is, I’ve spent most of lockdown learning Spanish!

In addition to providing some much-needed focus and purpose (and helping me to maintain my dream of one day being able to travel again!), I made a surprising discovery about the Spanish language that I just had to share.

Anyone who ever had a dodgy high school nickname can tell you that language is a supremely powerful tool, and the language that we use with ourselves and others reflects on and shapes us constantly. Which is why it was so interesting to learn that, in Spanish, they have two different ways of saying, “I am…”

When they are speaking about a fixed trait or state of being they use this form of “to be”:

I am a girl = Yo soy una niña

You are Australian = Tu eres Australiana

I am a brunette = Yo soy morena


When they’re talking about changeable states of being, e.g., emotional states, they use a different form of the “to be” verb:

I am sad = Yo estoy triste

You are stressed = Tu estás estrada

I am happy = Yo estoy feliz

And I love everything about this! (me encanta esto!)

I’m sure there’s a really fancy linguistical way of explaining it, but what it means to me in psychological terms is that Spanish-speakers have a really clear way of denoting the difference between a trait (stable characteristic) and state (changeable condition/situation) and this is exactly what we try and emphasis when we’re working with clients on improving their emotional regulation and distress tolerance skills.

States are just that – states. They are transitory. They change (sometimes quite rapidly) from moment to moment and I think that’s an awesome thing to have emphasised in your everyday language because it can be really hard to remember when you’re mid-mood!

So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, stressed, angry or annoyed, ask yourself, is this a soy or an estoy?

And if it is an estoy state, then remember, this too shall pass… it may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass! 😉

Danielle Graber
12 Points Psychology