Language is a key defining element in the psyche of a people - it gives a critical reference frame with regard to how we interact within our world. Different langauges have differing ways of breaking up perceived realities and of giving expression to them. To illustrate this, consider how a language identifies the person with an emotion or a feeling.
For example, in English, we would say "I am happy" or "He is angry". The person is totally identified with the emotion - indeed, the whole person is literally identified as being the emotion itself.
In the Irish language the identification of the person with the emotion is very much less than in English. In Irish we would say "Tá áthas orm" - which literally means that happiness is upon me, or "Tá fearg air" - which means that anger is upon him. Thus, in Irish, the emotion is expressed and identified more as a transient state that is separate from the person: It is more like a piece of clothing that can be worn for a while, and then taken off when the time is right.
An interesting question that comes out of this is - to what extent does this significant difference of expression and identification with an emotion influence the amount of energy a person invests in the experiencing, processing (or even the witnessing) of such an emotion?
If a language confers a status to any emotion that is quite separate from the identity of the person, then perhaps a native Irish speaker would find themselves with greater psychological freedom and safety in experiencing or expressing any emotion at an intense level. And for the same reason, perhaps there would be greater tolerance within a native Irish speaking community for the more intense expression of such emotions in others.
Written by Brendan MacQuillan
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When possible, please write your comments in English so that the author also can actively take part in the discussions. Thank you!