How Words Hurt

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"How Words Hurt"
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Among the multitudes of things that we experience, early in life, is the pain that words spoken to us, or about us, can inflict upon us. Almost simultaneously, we learn that words spoken to other persons, or about other persons, can inflict pain upon them. As we grow and develop, from infancy towards elderliness, we engage in verbal warfare almost continuously. If we are like most of our fellow humans, we become expert word warriors. If we are like most of our fellows, we suffer powerful hurts, inflicted by the words of others, and we inflict powerful hurts upon others, without ever wondering how it is that words can hurt so much.

Words might not damage our physical bodies, but the damage inflicted by words can endure long, long after any physical damages have healed and been forgotten. Words hurt by inflicting pain upon our psyches. When our psychological dimensions are hurt, the pain can be everlasting. Psychological pain can recur again, and again, and again, every time the memory of the circumstances surrounding the infliction of that pain comes back to our conscious minds. Memories of the circumstances surrounding the infliction of psychological pains can remain in our subconscious minds and continue to impact us even though we do not recall when, how or why we first suffered the pain.

We tend to experience the pain, caused by words, every time we hear those words spoken, whether the words are being spoken to us, or not. Psychologists tell us that, for each of us, certain words become "charged" words. For each of us, certain words become "charged" with pain and suffering for us because every time that we hear those words spoken, the pain that we experienced when those words were first spoken us, comes back to hurt us anew.

Venerability to pain caused by words seems to be a universal human trait. Natural immunity to being hurt by words seems to be non existent. There are few, if any, persons who grow up immune to pain caused by spoken words. There do seem to be, however, some persons who have developed ways to avoid having their psyches damaged by the pain of words spoken to, or about them.

One of these persons was a teacher who taught that hurtful words fall into three (3) main categories. "Name calling" was one category. "Hurtful descriptions" and "teasing words" was a second category. Blatant "criticisms" was the third category. This teacher employed some very insightful and creative ways to help his students begin to develop, within their psyches, some resistance to, or defense against, hurtful words. He succeeded in helping his students alter some of their thinking patterns, belief systems and attitudes.

Beliefs and attitudes about "name calling" began to change when this teacher wrote his own name on the chalk board and then asked, "Who is that?" After many of his students said, "That is you!" He replied, "No! That is not me!" "I am standing here." "Those are words, written in chalk, on the blackboard." "I am not those words." "I will never be just words written, or spoken anywhere!" "I shall always be the unique and wonderful human person that I am." "I shall always have the power to accept, or reject any words used to name me." "So, also shall each of you." " Every one of you will always be the unique and wonderful persons that you are." "You will, each, always have the power to accept or reject any spoken or written words that other persons try to use to name you."

In subsequent discussions about labels or descriptions of persons and words often used to in "teasing", this teacher enabled his students to rethink and revise previously held beliefs and attitudes. They became able to minimize, or obviate the pain of formerly hurtful words that persons sought to use to describe or "tease" them.

It has been said that criticism of others is motivated by desires to change the beliefs, attitudes and behaviors of others. It has been said that criticism of others is motivated by envy, jealousy and/or coveting of the possessions, attributes or resources of others. It has even been said that the criticism of others is sometimes motivated by admiration of others.

Regardless of the motivations, words of criticism are likely the most hurtful of the words that we inflict upon others and that others inflict upon us. Master manipulators are said to use words of criticism more often than any others, as they seek to control the actions of other people, because most persons have such little tolerance for the pain of hurtful words of criticism that they will do almost anything to avoid being criticized. It is amazing how early in life many of us discover the effectiveness of the use of criticism. It is amazing how skillful so many of us become in the use of criticism to control the actions of others. It is probably neither amazing nor surprising that the most hurtful words of criticism are those that come from the persons closest to us.

Words hurt! They hurt us so devastatingly and so everlastingly because they hurt the very cores of our beings, our psyches. It is likely that the best place to start, if we truly desire to begin to lessen the hurts that our words inflict upon others, is to start by lessening the criticisms that we inflict upon those who are closest to us, our "loved" one.

More about this author: Calsue Murray

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