Words can certainly hurt, but can also heal. Use them wisely, and sensitively.
A study from 2016 (Ritter, Alexander et al. “Enhanced Brain Responses to Pain-Related Words in Chronic Back Pain Patients and Their Modulation by Current Pain.”) explains how pain-related words can potentially change the central nervous processing associated to the cognitive dimensions of pain. These changes can alter the processing of acute and pain sensations, so literally words can really get to hurt or to increase pain!
What makes me think that if words can hurt, there is also a potential for the opposite, words can support you feeling better.
What kind of words can have a positive impact?
With regards to what you say to others, my training has been crucial. Words that we choose to say to others can change the course of an entire conversation, mitigate or redirect attacks from others and put you in a much better place. I will expand on this on a future blog piece.
Words that you choose to say to yourself can be from describing your beliefs about yourself to what you aim, and your self-image. What you say is what you get, as what you say goes inevitably occupies space in your subconscious mind and becomes part of your belief system. There is a whole way of working with the words you say to yourself based on affirmations, you repeating to yourself what you are, or think you are or want to become, or what to achieve, or are achieving… but affirmations don’t always work when repeated as mantras, and even if there are approaches to personal development based on them, I have and you probably have heard too of stories of disappointment around affirmations.
Why affirmations are not working? Positive affirmations have even in some cases made people feel worse, as they notice how far they are from what they want to achieve and they don´t have a very positive view of themselves. But chances are that you can more effectively influence your belief system and your subconscious mind when your words of affirmation contain some element of truth instead of repeating as a mantra something that feels totally the opposite of who you are.
Instead of repeating “I am confident” if you don’t find that confidence in yourself at all, you
can celebrate the actions in the direction towards confidence that you have taken, instead of repeating “I am rich” if you are broke, you can tell yourself you have the capacity of creating your wealth in order to feel safe, and notice and celebrate the moments of safety when you feel aligned with safety. Or you can create a mental image of yourself doing actions that get you where you want to go, activating areas of the brain that would get active if you were experiencing those situations, and then not just think about it but follow up with your actions, stretching yourself towards what you can actually do in the direction of what you want. Repetition in your brain can support those actions, and make you feel like it's more natural to act in this new way.
Action is key. We do all these mental exercises in order to support our actions, and of course, at the end of the day, only you know what really works for you, so navigating the world of affirmations, celebrations and putting yourself in the right mindset for something, you will know better what is it that works for you.
Putting some positive words in your life, will at least not hurt you, especially when many tend to incorporate and make natural the use of a lot of negative vocabulary, and use self-deprecation as a way to gain sympathy from others.
It will be almost unavoidable and not totally preventable that some words will hurt us, but it is in our hands to learn why do they hurt us, what can we do about it within ourselves and how can we train others in how to treat us, for the sake of all of us, for a better world.