The Daily Groove

WordWatch: "My"

Possessiveness is rooted in scarcity thinking, which undermines the natural tendency to expand joy through sharing.

We inadvertently teach our children scarcity thinking by overusing possessive words like my, mine, yours, Daddy's, sister's, etc. There's nothing inherently wrong with these words, but questioning their use can help us shift into abundance thinking.

For example, imagine asking your child, "Do you want a bite of my apple?" Is the word "my" really needed? Why not simply call it "this" apple?

When ownership is emphasized, it sends a subtle message: "I have control over this." It alters the child's perception of the owned object, making it seem like a source of power. "Your" apple is more likely to become the object of a power struggle.

Today, try to notice whenever you use possessive words, and ask yourself if they make you feel lacking or abundant — like a competitor ("that's MY chair") or a partner ("put your hand in mine").

Comments (closed)

Re: WordWatch: "My"

Okay so I read this a year or so ago and practiced this with our son. When in discussion about it with someone else, the someone else said something about children needing to learn, first, about possession and what is theirs/yours before they can learn to share, or to "transcend" it. Comments?

Re: WordWatch: "My"

Humans are innately social animals that evolved in conditions of relative abundance. This favored the rise of a sharing ethic — a general perception that there's more to gain by sharing than by hoarding. The more we parents demonstrate that mindset around our children, the more they will express that potential, too. Actual material abundance is not as important as the mindset of abundance.

Ideally, the descent into scarcity thinking would be milder and begin later, and then it could be transcended and integrated to produce a mindset of unconditional abundance. So I think your friend is partially right, but she's leaving out the first stage...

1. From day one, the child is surrounded by elders who feel confident that there's plenty of everything they need to enjoy life, and their feelings of abundance are reflected in their attitudes and language. This allows the child's generosity and trust to flourish and become predominant traits.

2. As the child matures, the number of interactions with the broader culture (outside the family) increases and provides ample opportunities to explore the world of scarcity. Not only do they not need us to "teach" them about scarcity, but they are better off learning about it from sources and situations outside the immediate family. That way, they don't identify with it as much, making it easier to transcend later.

3. The contrast between society's culture of scarcity and the family's subculture of abundance, over time, facilitates the child's realization that most forms of scarcity are illusions, and the experience of abundance is available even under conditions of material scarcity.

In conventional child-rearing, the parents feel obliged to teach scarcity (including the abstraction of property restrictions) from day one. The child then becomes "well-adjusted" to the scarcity-based culture, but later the child will have a harder time transcending scarcity because early conditioning is harder to change.