Words Matter

Can you hear me now?

Can you hear me now?

When I was a kid, I heard, “Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you.”  I’ve even said that to kids a few times.

The fact of the matter is though, that it’s a complete lie.  Words do hurt, because words matter.  We try to pretend they don’t, and it’s easy to do until someone flings hurtful words at us.  Then we feel the sting, and if they’re hurtful enough, even bleed a little.

I’m reading a very interesting book right now, The Broom of the System, by David Foster Wallace.  In it, he talks about how words shape our reality, how words are reality.  It’s true.  Words carry weight and matter.  And as someone who loves words intensely, I think they should.

I encourage my group to build an intention and then say it out loud or write it down.  People are more likely to follow through if they do one of those two things instead of just thinking it.   Words said out loud or written down carry more weight than ones that rattle around in our brains.

People can be very careless about words they speak or write, as if words are just puffs of air that dissolve into nothingness.  They don’t though; they stick around, bouncing around inside another person’s head or heart.  If you write something down, you etched it somewhere permanently.  It can be shredded or burned, but those words are never really destroyed, because you can’t destroy something that was.  The essence remains, even if the object does not.

Because I can carefully craft my words, and it’s something I enjoy doing, I’m aware that my words have great power.  I can do great harm with words if I choose to.  I instead (mostly) choose to spread positivity, because in the same way that negative words have power, so do positive ones.

Listening, really listening, is the best gift you can give most anyone.  Most of us aren’t truly listened to.  And I believe that’s one of the greatest word powers; the gift of knowing when to say nothing and just be there.

Choose your words carefully today.

“A bad word whispered will echo a hundred miles”
-Chinese Proverbs quotes

I Know How Lucky I Am

Phoenix Art Museum; Photo Credit: RJS Photography

Phoenix Art Museum; Photo Credit: RJS Photography

I was mostly born without the sadness gene.

Over the holidays, I saw some people posting about how they were sad or depressed , and it’s hard for me to grasp that.  I’m a therapist; it should make sense to me.  But it just doesn’t.

There’s so much cool stuff on this planet.  I have my dogs and cats.  I love looking at the stars, watching the sun rise, hiking in the desert.  When I lived in PA, I walked in the woods and discovered the spring that ran through the mountain.  I could spend an hour looking at the roots of a fallen tree.  My life is endlessly fascinating.  I’m seldom bored, and even less often depressed.

I don’t mean to say I never have a bad day or have never gone through a bad time; I have.  It’s just that I don’t tend to get bogged down.  I believe that in large part, we make our own luck.  So, if I’m going to make good luck, I have to send positive vibes out into the universe.  Which is usually why I try to see the positive in things and be happy where I am.

In 2006, my grandfather died.  He was one of my favorite people in the world, and losing him was huge.  My grandpa ran an antique shop, and was very close to his employees.  One of them, a woman I didn’t know well, was helping do all the stuff that needs to be done when someone dies.  No matter what I was assigned, my response was, “That’s okay.  We’ll get it done.”  At one point she exploded at me, “Don’t you ever say anything else?”  I hadn’t realized before then how annoying my attitude could be.

The thing is, that is my attitude in most situations.  I was sad that he’d died, and I still miss him, but being miserable wasn’t going to bring him back.  I’m just grateful that I have so many wonderful memories of him, and that I had such a great relationship with him.  In any situation, there are many choices.  I generally choose to accept.

I’m not saying that everyone can do this.  Like I said, I really believe that our ability to be happy is in part how we’re wired.  For me, being positive comes easily.  But I can’t read or follow directions (they get jumbled in my head).  I don’t like exercise and can get so involved in books that I don’t do anything else for days on end.  But, I think that differences are what make people interesting.  I have to work harder than other people so I don’t gain weight.  I also have to work harder to stay tuned in when I’m talking to people outside of work.  But I do work at these things.  Just like some people need to work harder than others to be happy.  But I believe that happy and positive can be habits, just like anything else.

I had a nice interaction at work the other day that reminded me that we don’t have any idea of our impact on others.  I was chatting with another woman and made a comment that was meaningless to me, but it touched her and made her feel that I cared.  Her face relaxed (she had looked tense before) and said, “Thank you for being you.”

What a nice thing to be thanked for.  My response should have been, “Thank you for noticing.”

The Masks We Wear

DSCN1237We all wear masks, though how different the mask is from the real face varies from person to person.  Most of us are different at work than we would be at home, or with friends, or with our parents.  There’s a number of reasons we do this.  One reason is that people often don’t want to appear weak or vulnerable in front of others, so they pretty much show one face to the world.  Another reason is that we’re all taught that some emotions are “good” and some are “bad.”  Good emotions are things like happiness and love.  Bad emotions are things like sadness and anger.

As a therapist by day, this drives me crazy.  Emotions are value neutral.  We all get sad and angry; they’re just emotions.  It’s what we do with the emotions that functional or not.  For instance, having a bad day and crying is normal.  Grieving the loss of a loved one is normal.  Being sad all day every day for weeks, not eating, not sleeping, blowing off friends, not functional.  It’s not the emotion that’s good or bad, it’s the behavior that goes along with it that may be problematic.

By the same token, “good” emotions aren’t necessarily good all the time either.  No one is happy all the time.  Those that do might have a problem.  Some people only show their happy face to the world all the time.  Some of those people are great, and some are less than great.  If it’s okay to laugh in public, why is it that crying should be done in private?

It’s interesting though… even though I say we all wear masks, isn’t that just different sides to personality?  For instance, at work, I’m a little more social, a little friendlier, and a little more helpful than I would be otherwise.  On my day off, people talking to me is the sign of a bad day.  At work, I’ve learned to tolerate it and sometimes even welcome it.  Who’s to say I don’t secretly crave social interaction?  (I don’t; it was just an example)

Do you feel like you wear any masks?