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The power of words

Words and the way we say them has meaning. They have the power to push us forward or hold us back.

There are words that we carry with us for months or years even, words that hurt us when we think of them or cheer us up when we’re down, giving us the power to make and create new things.

Every word creates an image, a picture, a sensation, an action, or inaction, throughout our entire lives, passing from childhood to adulthood. We basically learn to get to know ourselves and the world around us while trying to decipher a big puzzle of words. Everything has a name, whether it be an object, a feeling or a thought. Every sensation has its own definition. We know and understand the world that surrounds us because someone has put it all into words for us. Without words we wouldn’t have known what it and all the things in it were.

Try to think, how do you know a pen is a pen? then imagine that you’re holding in your hands something that has no name or definition, what would it feel like? would you even acknowledge or consider it? We tend to give our attention to things we can clearly define and call by their names.

Let’s remember for a second the folktale of ‘The Emperor's New Clothes’. It is based on our relationship with words, “A ‘fool’ he who cannot see” (the meaning of the word ‘fool’)- an innocent little boy, that hasn’t yet gotten the rules of the world and the words that reside in it. He just expressed what he saw, as simple as that.

The child learns to approach the world through the parent as an educator, by the way a word is displayed before him or hidden from him (‘sex’, for example, is a word a parent usually tries to keep hidden). Even the tone or connotation (where we place the word in the sentence and its connection to the situation) in which we use a certain word is important. For a school-age child this can also be done by his teacher.

Every word has its own content, and we are the ones letting this content exist. Even the deaf who have found themselves a different kind of language using signs in order to express this world, rely on the same initial definition of words as the rest of the world. Those signs must be based on the existing meaning words in the hearing world in order to allow for mutual/global understanding and contents.

We speak out our thoughts and feelings.

Words have the ability to influence our day to day lives for the better or for the worse. Creating a conversation or a gossip, talking about things that make us happy or are painful to us. Each of us has experienced at least once some kind of hurtful piece of gossip that was told about him/her, one that might have hurt them very deep, so deep in fact that it has influenced their quality of life. On the other hand, there are some that have also experienced a piece of gossip that has made them reach major progress- transform from good to better for example, word to mouth recommendations, which are considered good publicity.

Each of us regards every word differently, depending and according to the sum of personal experiences he/she has gone through during their young and adult life and also depending on their personality.

Everything can be turned from a negative to a positive or vice versa. For example, Wedding (one can be happy about it while the other is afraid and wants to escape it)- the body responds differently according to each feeling. ‘Will you marry me?’ is a question every woman awaits eagerly to hear but can just as easily represent something intimidating or scary for some.

Pregnancy- A strong desire or the burden of responsibility?? Accordingly, the body allows for an easier impregnation or makes it more difficult due to fear.

A child- fun or burden??

If we were to say ‘gay’ to someone who is straight they might find it repulsive and react with aggression or there might also be someone that would take it with a smile and move on because this person’s ability to accept differences is bigger.

Labeling children, whether it’s done by other kids or by adults: ‘geek’, ‘nerd’ what do you think such labels create in those who experience them? We can find people that to this day still carry around with them these labels wherever they go; working hard to finally release them, continuously bowing down to them as definitions or owning up to them proudly/humorously saying “I’m a geek and I’m proud of it!”.

Take for example Mark Zuckerberg, the ‘geek’ who created Facebook, today so many people would trade places with him if they could, so some may say he’s a ‘geek’ but a proud one at that.

Who of us hasn’t experienced in their childhood the sentence “be a good boy/girl” (translates into “I must be a bad boy/girl if I’m needed to be told that”)? Looking back at it from an adult perspective it is a kind of manipulation, in order for the kids to do what we, the parents, want them to. What does this experience create in those children while they become adults? Perhaps the constant will to please or satisfy at work and at home with their husband/wife.

Who of us hasn’t suffered the comparison to others growing up? “You see?! Michael is better than You, why can’t You be more like him?” (never mind that 20 years later he might not have been successful at all but you’ve still been left feeling less your entire life).

Words, if strong enough, can definitely hurt or generate a disease.

How do we express ourselves when we’re not in a good place in our lives or when we are extremely stressed? Most of us use those same repeating expressions to show our frustration and anger.

Expressions like:

“I have a lot on my mind” (headaches, migraines?)

“I’ve got the weight of the world on my shoulders” (backaches, stiff neck?)

“I’ve got no time to breath” (breathing difficulties?)

“I take it all to heart”/”I can’t take it anymore” (heart related issues, digestive problems?)

“I’ve had it up to here” (sore throat, hoarseness, Thyroid misfunction?)

Try to think about how you express stress or pressure.

In order to demonstrate to you how words affect our lives I’ve gathered here a few examples from past patients of mine:

Someone that was told by his parents that he’s “not worth anything” and that “nothing will come out” of him. What do you think these sentences did to him? He worked very hard all his life but as his parents said and imprinted in his mind nothing came out of him, because he didn’t really give anything a chance. He didn’t really believe he could become something, therefore he didn’t.

Another case included sentences like “Music can’t make you any money, being a lawyer can” or “You’ve had your fun, now it’s time to get serious”. So then he abandoned music, which was the love of his life, in favour of practicing law and a life of misery as far as he was concerned.

Someone that was told by her brother that since she got married in a civil marriage instead of a religious one “god will not bless her with children” simply couldn’t get pregnant. Today, after some therapy sessions and being able to release this sentence from her mind she has 3 beautiful children.

A child that asked me “why doesn’t mummy say anything nice or hug me when I bring home a better grade then the one I had before?” (a C instead of a D).

Teachers that tell children they’re “dumb” and they “will never add up to anything”.

We all manage our lives through the positive and negative reinforcements that we give/receive.

There’s no right or wrong to all but rather right or wrong to each specific person.

Words are important! Life has both a beginning and an end and both can exist or cease to exist depending on the kind of words (right or wrong) that are being used during and in-between the two.

We use the term “key words” because these words matter, they are the key to the development of an idea or an action.

If you look around you, a lot of what’s happening is based and relies on words.

Diplomacy is based on saying the right words in order to create the correct political impact, solve issues and bridge cultural gaps between different states, creating comprehension and common ground between them.

Why do we have difficulties creating relationships with people from other countries? Because we don’t know the language and therefore have no common ground with them.

Language is both a verbal and emotional common ground. Have you ever noticed that almost every country in the world includes in its school curriculum the studies of a second language? this is done for that same reason- to have more common ground, to have more communication, to have a broader understanding.

Sometimes even if you know a language but not its nuances and dialects, you might misunderstand the person standing in front of you- he meant it in a positive way, but instead you took it as something negative.

In Latin rooted languages for example, there’s a respectful form of speech and a casual form of speech, which can cause some friction if misused. In this situation you or the other person might get offended, and again these are just words or semantics, as they say, but words are powerful, they have much more power than we give them credit for, so in this case a little more awareness goes a long way.

Mathematics is also a kind of international language that speaks numbers but has still reached and is spoken by everyone on some level or another.

Miming is just movement without any actual words, but it is still based on words- unspoken words (nice right?!). If we hadn’t had the initial words to describe what is displayed before us we wouldn’t have found any meaning in it (in the movement).

Websites are built on the concept of using specific search words and a certain way of thinking.

Products exist and are created because of words and specific needs that are defined by words.

We learn about what’s happening in the world through the news that are transmitted using words on TV and newspapers and we talk about them after.

Composers or artists write music with a certain meaning in mind. Music itself doesn’t necessarily need words, it is a language on its own but holds a verbal meaning to the one who wrote it or listened to it. Music expresses a feeling, an emotion, a thought…

Poems and books are basically and mainly words.

Certain words have the power to change situations, for example:

‘Sorry’- can create reconciliation

‘Thank you’- can create a sense of appreciation and encourage positive/kindful acts

‘hope’- can keep us alive

‘faith’- in ourselves (or in God)- makes us stronger or weakens us

When we include the word ‘Don’t’ in a sentence like “I don’t want to fail”, the ‘Don’t’ may cancel out what we actually wished for. Failure is just a step before reaching success! We are not supposed to let it become this big burden on our shoulders and carry it with us everywhere, restricting us in what we do or don’t do in the future.

An illness- is just a step before wellness (it’s all about changing your point of view).

War starts with a lot of words and intentions but can just as well end with one word- peace.

Food for thought:

Texting, Facebook, Twitter- the conversation is becoming shorter and shorter, superficial and using abbreviations and poor word choices- Our vocabulary is on the verge of extinction and the capacity to conduct a proper in-depth conversation is declining.

The on-growing use of computers and the act of typing everything on them devalues the written word and the process of refresh that is created in the brain while we write and pronounce words- the implementation part happens while we write something (with an actual pen/pencil on an actual piece of paper).

The way we write is becoming more and more illegible.

Handwriting as a way of personal expression of something to someone is rapidly disappearing- greeting cards, which were handwritten in the past are nowadays just typed on/by a computer. I somehow always felt that a handwritten postcard or greeting card held a different level of intentions and personalization in their message, just a thought…

We also read less- leading to a decrease in our world of imagination by the lack of words. Maybe this will cause an increase in dementia cases at a later age? yes? No?

Why can’t we say “I love you” more freely or frequently- it’s supposed to be so simple but for us it’s extremely complicated. The word ‘Love’ will soon lose its power because we use it less and less and don’t consider anymore who we are saying it to. It loses its initial strong meaning and becomes completely superficial. We are willing to settle on it, so it will slowly disappear altogether from our vocabulary and generations to come will not know what it actually meant or what it stood up for. It will become just another empty word.

Any suggestions?

A sentence like “your body is a temple” “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” “Laughter is the best medicine” “Put your best foot forward” demonstrates the emotional connection to the words we say and the physical aspect/influence in every imagery we use to express those emotions. You can eat consciously and put through positive thoughts- using positive words while you prepare the food and while you eat it as well. If you’ll try it, you’ll see an immediate improvement in digestive problems, for example. If only for the fact that you’ve realized and acknowledged that words have power and an energy that can make us feel better even if objectively the situation itself is unpleasant.

Give more positive reinforcements- we all need those, both the receiving and giving end.

Start your day with positive thoughts, this puts us in a general feel-good mood and increases our ability to handle what lies ahead.

Be aware of what words do to you and what they can do to others, know that there’s always a choice! And the wonderful thing is that you can always choose differently.

Using positive words in order to change a current bad state, like an anxiety attack for example- repeatedly saying “I’m calm” (even though you know it’s the other way around, but words can still affect the brain and its chemical activity, in this case for the better).

If you feel rigid or tensed you can say “I’m flexible” or “I let go”, “I release”.

Explaining things a little differently- like “God is full of love and compassion and wouldn’t want you to suffer”, it is us who place all these other rules and punishments, therefore it's us who can change them.

Think about it. You can even make just a small change in the way you speak to your family, friends and people around you. If you are consistent you could benefit from this change as well, you’ll feel better with yourself and other people will feel better around you. Be aware of what you say, to whom and how you say it, because every word counts.