Words hurt because we interpret them individually, according to what we think someone meant. Sometimes people want to hurt with words, sometimes, we assume they do. How much they hurt depends largely upon how much power we concede to others.
It is at least partly true, that words hurt because we have big brains. It is because our language, unlike the language of all other animals, is interpreted, processed, distorted, stored, re-checked, aligned and associated with past humiliations and hurts. Words are so powerful they are rightly associated with God. ” In the beginning, “says the western bible, “Was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God.” How did the Word, language, become God? What makes words so very powerful?
Words, stored in our big brains, are our core consciousness. We think, therefore we are. but we think this very thought with these words: “We” and “think” and “therefore” in language. Furthermore, we sense, all of us, that the we who are thinking, are MORE than the being doing the thinking. We are also the observer who observes we have consciousness, and we have words. Words are mind boggling, and for the sake of interpreting their complexity, we very quickly learn as babies, that words have much more meaning than random sounds. We learn quickly to program ourselves as to whether we are going to be comforted, rewarded, ignored, punished, hurt, abused, or all of the above with words. Words, are in a sense magic.
Words can be intended to be completely kind, and still, the recipient may interpret them as devastating. This might happen to a child who has been programmed by words and short cutting interpretations to read tone, pitch, volume and more and who associates any of these with past “punishing” words.
A child, who cries and is called names, quickly learns from the inflection that having sad emotions is “wrong.” Our emotion tells us to cry, and our tear ducts are designed by nature to cleanse, soothe, lubricate, and destroy toxins with our tears. Let’s say you are in first grade and you fall on the slide and cut your knee. You cry without thinking about it. But Bobby Robertson sneers at crying. And we are going to believe Bobby Robertson, playground bully, for life, because his words are more powerful than our own millions of years of evolution and exquisitely formed tear ducts! Of course, it is not just Bobby, but all of socialization that supports “crying is weak, or wrong, or bad” that we hear.
As animals with a neo-cortex that often gets us into harm’s way, how can we learn to turn off the ever-critical words in our mind that create obstacles for all of us? Sometimes, we may not even hear the words, but interpret what we do pick up on as negative. It has been well studied and documented that people will attach more meaning and memory to a negative comment, or a criticism, than they will a positive one. We are wired to notice “the wrong,” and to ignore the rest. To test this, see if you cannot easily recreate in your mind, something scary, tragic, or enraging that has happened in your life. You will be able to remember and attribute many words to the situation in deep and dispairing detail. When asked to describe a happy day, you have to stop and try to even think of one, this language is not as well stored and remembered. This is also due to our programming which taught us to prepare for fight or flight, and not to languish too long in sentimental verbage of one uneventful afternoon. To your language center, pleasant is equated with uneventful.
Words also hurt because egos clash up against other egos. Most of what we say is NOT intended to harm, but we forget that the person we are speaking too is just as much inside their own mind, as we are inside of our own mind. This is so easy to do. We have to filter out thousands of incoming stimulus every second. There are sounds, smells, tastes, textures, heat and cold, physical pain, distraction, and that does not even take into account what is happening inside our body, and what we see! Add to the distractions all your verbal memory, trying to configure message from short sentences, and factor in your programming since you first learned to hear and speak.
Then there is hate speech, and all the negative words we are programmed to rile up when we hear. We have to ask ourselves if we wish to be perturbed as the speaker wants us to be? Or, do we wish to be in control of our emotions? Of course it hurts to feel someone wants to hurt you with words, but you must always leap back into control of what you wish to know and respect about yourself first. Live by knowing of others: “ You may call me a B word, or an N word, or even an A word, but I know who I am, and I won’t respond to your mistaking me for someone I am not.” You take the breath they wished to” breathe into life” with their insult away. The word is not breathed into life, unless you allow it to be. Don’t give their words life. Take control, and watch hate words curl up and fall like dead leaves, to the ground. Teach others this is the best way.
As for the words you use, soft and sweet is the best way to serve a comment. We learned as children “Be careful of the words you say, keep them SOFT and SWEET. You never know from day to day, which words you’ll have to eat.” Silly, but it’s true.
Is there a way to somehow go back to our pre-language Eden? There are some paths to follow. Look into a person’s eyes and make sure they see your eyes as well. The non-verbal is here, and it is non-threatening 99% of the time. When with someone you are building trust with in a relationship, spend time outdoors and read the language of the non-verbal. Trees, wind, birds, flowers, clouds, sunlight, bees, fruits and fields all have non-verbal ways that they are connected to one another and communicate with each other. If they had no communication, or if they had to rely on “verbal language” for pollination, migration, fruiting season, flowering time, and so on, all life would be very, very complicated. The non verbal world has much to teach us. In the non verbal world we see that systems support and interact with other systems. A tree has several layers of bark, a hydrology system, roots, branches, fruits and flowers, and more. They all have to interact precisely to survive. We can learn that this non verbal world is highly evolved, and miraculously calibrated to support life and even heal abuse. We can learn from this genius, inspiration, and science, and beauty.