Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Call Me By My True Name

"Call me by my true name" is the title of a collection of poems written by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk who has been a great inspiration to me. Whenever I see the title of the book I ask myself the question: Who am I? What is the name I want to use for myself? I want to be Joy, and sometimes Joyce.

Create more Joy
Four years ago during my first personal development program in the Berkshires I started to call myself Joy. This because I wanted to invite more joy in my life. And it worked! Somehow it became easier for me to change my thoughts and behaviors when I changed my name. I started to meet new people with personal qualities I really, really appreciate. And I can say that it's been a great journey, and I am so excited about where I am today.

New people I meet know me as Joy, and I have created lots of new friends whom automatically call me Joy. Kids normally also call me Joy. It might be that they are used to take names in their games or maybe they are just used to respect other people’s requests. It is my experience is that kids are great advocates: they'll keep correcting their parents and grandparents if needed!

Holding on...
It has been different with old friends and family whom I rarely see or speak. Some do their best to get used to the new name by taking small steps, which means the process of name change takes a longer time than I wish for!

Then there are people who say that it's difficult. They do this in a question sort of way, as if they hope I would change my want for being called Joy when I realize it's difficult for them. The funny thing is that this could have worked with Joyce, because I used to operate on "indirect requests". In relationships Joyce would not ask for what she wanted, but she would "indicate" it, and the people she interacted with would do the same. An example would be that you did something I didn't like. I would then become sad and you would stop what you was doing, and do your best to guess what I wanted or didn't want. I do not operate that way anymore!

A fun observation has been with friends who started to call me Joy and then stopped after we didn't meet for a while. Most of them stopped because they spent more time with other people who had not gotten used to my new name.

Then there are a few people who not only say it's difficult to call me Joy, but seem to have taken the decision that they do not want to call me Joy. As I think of it, most of these people are people I see as people who often seem to be resistant to change and who seem somewhat controlling.

What do you call yourself?
Now, how can the information written above, relate to you, if you are still holding you original birth name? Well, think about how you use names for people or things. Do you have a nickname that others use for you? Does everyone use that name? Do people tend to use your first name or your nickname? Do they use them consistently or just once in a while?

I've called Sushi my favorite food the last years, but at times it's not. Do you keep your favorite food your favorite food or does it change over time?

How much are you attached to names or the use of names? Does it matter if people pronounce your name in a certain way, or can they do what ever they want to?

A New Alternative
When this Blog started, I didn't like the name "A New Alternative". I saw it in opposition to "The Old Alternative" and I made the assumption that in order to call something new, something else would have to be old! I did not want to call the old alternative and all their teachings "old". It definitely wasn't old to me! I felt I was still learning to use all the tools.

But then I realized that I didn't have to think that way. At the old place, they teach that happiness is a choice. It's an alternative. But in my life many people do not see the world that way. Not all people seem to be ready for this new alternative that happiness IS a choice! Did I just say "this NEW choice"? Well, that's what it is to most people. And talking about new alternatives rather that alternatives (in general) does suggest that it's ok for people to not have seen the happy option before, and that it is not something they HAVE to do, it's just A New Alternative to consider.

I'm getting more and more excited about the huge difference it makes about which words we use, and which meaning we give the words we hear or read about.

I invite you to pay attention to your language, to think about what you call all the different things and people in your life, and see how you change your words in different situations and ... What do you call yourself?


  1. Delightfully Joy-ful ;)

    Indeed words can have power. Its in relationship to meaningfulness the arrangement of letters fascilitate. This realization can occur at an assortment of levels..... hugs bw

  2. hmmm. so what appeals to my choosing the handle of 'benevolent Warrior?' For me the idea of choosing an attitude or approach of benevolence, while equally choosing to embrace championing what I believe in......Freedom.

    Whenever I reflect on this I'm reminded how I was moved by Mel Gibson's moving portrayal of Braveheart. I was impressed.

    He aptly portrayed the power of the idea behind the word, in choosing the experience of freedom vs victimhood.

  3. I'm noticing that I'm becoming increasingly word neutral in terms of the "charged" words. Having charges on words can really get in the way of hearing what someone is saying.

    At the same time intimately aware of how word choice affects people and I love playing with words. Lately I've been playing with words like good and bad, right and wrong to see how quickly it brings out the op-cop in my friends. It's fun and give us a lot to talk about.

    Perhaps my word-neutrality has to do with my last name, 2-oh-men-oak-sa which is almost never pronounced correctly. You know, you just learn not to make it mean anything that people get it "wrong" or you get upset a lot.

    I took Teflon in 2003 when I decided I really wanted to never take anything that anyone said personally. I wanted to have a no stick surface so to speak. It has a remarkable impact on who I've become.


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