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How to Stop Pain From Determining Your World–Part4

How to Stop Pain From Determining Your World—Part 4

Welcome back to the forth part of the series that focuses on how to stop pain from determining your world. The whole series is a reply to the linguistic  determinist who believe that language not only influences, but determines the way we perceive the world.

I show Why This is Not The Case

The first post acknowledged the psychological power of language  to define our reality.

The second post examined how language influences, according to those who support linguist  determinism, the way we look at the world.

The third post  took on a central tenant  of the Linguistic determinist:The  linear and non-linear argument . This is the belief that some cultures are determined to see the world in a linear form, and others in a non-linear form. The final post will show how the so called “Climactic ” argument fails to prove that a culture in a “non-linear” society is unable to perceive of things in a linear way.

Starting a Meal With Strawberry Short Cake

And Ending it With Spinach

The “Climactic” Argument

Here is where Linguist Anthropologist  Dorothy Lee attempts  to show another example of how how the language of the people living in the Trobriand Island (of New Guinea) doesn’t have a concept of linear while English calls attention to linear order. She says:

…who but a very young child would think of starting a meal with strawberry shortcake and ending it with spinach? We have come to identify the end of the meal with the height of satisfaction, and we identify semantically the words dessert and reward, only because of the similarity of their position in a climatic line. The Trobriander meal has no dessert, no line, no climax. The special, the relish is eaten with the staple food; it is not something to “look forward to” while disposing of a meaningless staple.[1].

The problem with Lee’s example is simple enough. The fact that one’s language creation doesn’t connate something in a “climactic” fashion doesn’t mean that one doesn’t perceive climactic action.

Consider The Following:

You are asked to describe a table. In your description you describe the table in “positive” terms. You state how big rather than how small the table is, how high rather than how low, how wide  rather than how narrow, and how hard rather than fragile. Just because you came up with a positive list of descriptions doesn’t mean that the next time you see the table you couldn’t come up with a negative list.

Are you starting to see where I’m going? It’s not at all clear that because the Trobrianders eat dessert  with the main meal, that they can’t conceive  of eating desert after the main meal. Just because one has no way of expressing a particular action in his or her language doesn’t mean that he or she can’t perceive  that action.

Here is An Interesting Twist

The fact that there is an expression describing a particular action in a language doesn’t mean that the people using that language perceive the action. In fact, it might be the opposite. Consider most conversations by Americans.

Americans according to Lee think in linearity. Really? Many times several topics are discussed at the same time, giving one the feeling of everything but linearity. Just think of the last time you had a conversation with your American buddies. Did you really go in a neat order topic to topic or did you jump around a lot?


Well you have come to the end of the sees and, you just learned a whole lot about Linguistic Determinism. So now it’s time to take a quick quiz to see how well you understand what you’ve just learned. Take a moment right now and answer these questions:

Question 1: Define Linguistic Determinism.

Question 2: Who is Benjamine Whorf?

Question 3: What is the Lineal and NonLineal Theory of language?

Question 4: How Are All These Relevant in Understanding The Mindset of Some One Suffering From Chronic WideSpread Pain


1. Linguistic Determinism is the theory that language  not only influences, but determines the way we perceive the world. See post 1 for more information.

2.  Benjamine Whorf (1897-1941) was a linguist who researched Hopi, and published a grammar of the Hopi language. He was also a fire inspector and drew heavily on his work with fire victims for illustrative material.

He argues that language  correlates with perception and that it may actually determine the way people perceive  reality. See post 2 for more information.

3. The belief that some cultures are determined to see the world in a linear form and others in a non-linear form is the correct answer. See this post  for more information.

4. A person suffering from chronic widespread pain may come to believe that his or her description  of the pain may determine  his or her future. That mindset to a large extant buys into the concept of L.D. Also, linear and nonlinear theory implies that the lack of a description of a certain action in a language means that people using that language  can’t perceive the action. this implies that a pain sufferer whose language  lacks an expression of an action can’t perceive of that action.

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How Did You Do?

If you got at least 3 right, then go ahead and start applying what you learned. Otherwise, I encourage you to review the material once more by reading the posts summaries. I wish you luck.

I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.


  1. Dorothy Lee, Lineal and NonLineal Codification of Reality


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