Creating Healthy Environments: Why Words Matter
Remember the nursery rhyme that we used to fend off cutting remarks: “stick and stones will break my bones yet words will never hurt me” Yet words can and do hurt. Words have a great potency to wound but also to heal.
We can use language to heal and energises ourselves and heal and energise people around us. We create the environment within ourselves and we contribute to the emotional and psychological environment around us.
We can also use language to create systematic doubt in ourselves and in others. We can use language to attack, defile, ridicule and in doing so, destroy our own self-value and that of others. Our inner voice is as important as what we say out loud. Often we allow this to run on automatic pilot, and not consider its impact. Think about that. One of the most insidious impacts of negative self- talk and negative talk AKA gossip: is that it undermines your own self value and someone else’s reputation.
We learnt all about the power of words when we were growing up and our self-value is influenced mostly by authority figures and the people who are responsible for our safety, education and well-being, such as our parents and teachers. Careless and callous comments such as “you are not trying hard enough”, “you are not as clever as your brother” can seed in a young mind and configure the default programing. This remains dormant and maybe triggered by situations, comments and comparisons which take the person back to the emotions of the original event even though the current circumstances may be very different to the original event.
So, what happens when this is triggered? The part of the brain responsible for protection, the amygdala, is stimulated and our energy is diverted into survival mode. We baton down the hatches to get out of the perceived danger or we fight our way out or remain completely inert. This is known as the Flight, Fight and Freeze reaction. Fear, anxiety and rage release adrenaline and cortisol and these stress hormones can limit our ability to respond appropriately. The Fight-Flight-Freeze mode creates the language of internal civil war.
The second thing that needs our prominent attention is our self-talk. How we talk to ourselves makes an enormous difference. Consciously switching the narrative from defeating words such as “You idiot!” and “You are useless” to “You can find a way forward” and “You can do this.” The first style self-talk reinforces negative conditioning and creates further stress. It does not comfort or create a better outcome, it scuppers our chances of succeeding. If we do succeed by overcoming enormous challenges, we put it down to being a fluke. not our own agency
This again takes us out of our authentic power to create change. This is also different from positive thinking that discards important pieces of information that need attention. The second style of self- talk builds inner trust and confidence that is rooted in optimism and perseverance. Strong characters building requires optimistically assertive self-talk which Is very different from Pollyanna style denial or internal character attacking.
Under pressure, let’s speak to ourselves with encouragement and determination. Focus on the process not the outcome. In the moment, these are the things that count.
Talk with Others
When we talk to others, let’s not regurgitate bad things about another person because we have heard it from another source. Let’s check our sources and check our intentions. Gossiping about another person will not make us more virtuous, stronger or braver. It does the opposite. Just cut it out or decide to limit it.
I know that I am far from impeccable with my word, still fall into the habit of gossiping and putting myself down. Yet I am becoming more aware of the damage this creates for myself and others and wanted to share my thoughts. Let’s never underestimate the power of our words whether spoken or unspoken. Noticing is the beginning of a positive shift and I have always found the passage below a poignant reminder of where all this leads:
Be careful of your thoughts, your thought become your words. Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions. Be careful of your actions, for your actions become habits. Be careful of your habits, for you habits become your character. Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny.
Chinese proverb. Author unknown
The Keys of Life: Happy Birthday Louis.
My eldest son Louis is 21 today. As I sent my good wishes to him, I wondered what I would tell my 21-year-old self? I would say the same things that I am saying to Louis now.
The First Key: Value Yourself.
We all have the same value as human beings regardless of our status, talents or accomplishments. In the closing scenes of the TV drama-series “The Feud”, Bette Davis (played by Susan Sarandon) asked Joan Crawford (played by Jessica Lange) what it felt like to be most beautiful girl in the world. Joan replied that “It felt wonderful, and it was never enough.” Joan then asked Bette what it felt like to be the most talented girl in the world and Bette replied that “It was great, and it was never enough.” Real self-value is always enough.
The Second Key: Hold A Personal Vision For Your Life
If I had known this at 21, I would have worried a lot less about the things that didn’t work out and I would have wasted a lot less time on projects and people that were going frankly nowhere. It took another 10 years for me to discover that if we don’t have our own vision for our life then we are probably living someone else’s vision. Live your own personal vision.
The Third Key: Be Kind
When we are kind to ourselves we don’t ignore the signs of exhaustion and burn out. We don’t beat ourselves up so much when we mess up, when we procrastinate and when we feel down. We don’t deny ourselves the things that nourish us and inspire us. Fill yourself up with kindness and extend that in every way imaginable. Pay the busker just because you can, smile at someone because you caught their eye, listen to the person sincerely who needs your attention. Just be kind.
The Fourth Key: Invest in the Things That Matter
Find out what is important to you and what is not. Invest in the things that are important: your health, the people you love and respect, and the hobbies that inspire you. Good investments are usually long term and have interest that compounds over time. Don’t expect a quick return on your investments and keep on investing even if doesn’t feel worth the effort at the time. Invest in yourself.
The Fifth Key: Be Adaptable
Sometimes we just need to know when to quit, when to change our perspective, when to try something different, when to be bold, when to be cautious, and how to accept honest feedback. Bruce Lee said, “Be like water.” At 21, I didn’t understand what he meant (wet and watery?). Now I realise that he meant to be resilient, flexible, and truly strong. Don’t be afraid to adapt.
The Sixth Key: The Power of Now
This key I so wished I had a 21. At 21, I was living in the land of potentials and possibilities. Now, I realise that too much future focus creates suffering because we have expectations about how things should be and then get disappointed when things don’t turn out that way. The power is all in our presence, what we chose to do, feel and experience, in the now. The Power of Now might be Eckhart Tolle’s best-selling book yet the title says it all: Carpe Diem. Don’t only seize the day, enjoy it.
The Seventh Key: Always be You
And this is the one that maybe the greatest key of all. To know ourselves and be ourselves. Socrates and Plato and a host of other great minds seem to have the same idea, that knowing yourself is a very wise thing. Indeed.
As Louis celebrates his 21st on this glorious May Day at the aptly titled festival, Love Will Save the Day, I hope that he uses all his keys. For those of us a decade or three beyond Louis, we can still discover our own keys to life as it is never too late to use them. They unlock all that we are.
Sometimes all that is required of us is that we listen to what is being said. We don't need to comment, to offer an opinion, to agree or disagree or to offer a solution. When we listen mindfully we are present with the speaker, not second guessing what they have to say, approving or disapproving their content or waiting for a gap to say something and thereby hijacking the conversation. We drop the notion of having to influence or persuade or the need to alter their content in any way than it has been presented to us.
Often we stop listening because we have a voice in our own head that won't be silenced due to the internal running commentary on our lives which constantly judges, evaluates and works things out. Sometimes we can't listen because of our own opinions and strong judgements, biases and even prejudices. Sometimes we don't listen because we are distracted by our own worries and concerns and sometimes we don't listen because we are so tired, so worn out that we just don't even have the energy to listen.
When we are truly listening we give the speaker our full attention. We find stillness inside of us and remove the element of impatience, censorship, distraction and agitation. When we listen the speaker can hear themselves talk and that is maybe all they need from us, we might need to add very little because the very act of our listening has at some level been healing.
In Native American traditions there was the ritual known as the talking stick. When the person held the talking stick they were given permission to speak and they held the full attention of the group with out being interrupted by others.. When we allow people to speak in groups without been interrupted, censored or ridiculed, we develop a capacity to have the patience to listen with respect and to value the truth of others not because we necessarily agree with them but because to speak your truth and to be witnessed is a basic human requirement.
We sometimes have a narrative running in our minds. . Sometimes these stories do not reflect the true nature of the situation, They are stories that we have created to make sense of our reality. When we go into a story we stop noticing what is happening in reality, We stop noticing what happening in our bodies. We stop listening to our logic and we cannot access our intuition. We are enveloped in the narrative. This can carry us into a fantasy of our own making that has little correlation to our own world or the world of another person.
When you feel yourself telling a story, stop and breath and ask yourself,:
What am I telling myself?.
Is this really true?
What evidence do I have?
What do I feel about this really?
Where would I be without this story?
We then can start to observe the thoughts that create the story rather than be dictated that they are the facts. They are not. Thoughts are not facts. A stream of thoughts can be interesting and amusing. Yet they do not necessarily reflect reality, yours or another persons.
If we sit quietly and breathe we can create some distance between the thoughts and start to observe the present.
We can notice and create space that enables us to respond instead of reacting.
Every time we go into an altered state of reality created by thoughts alone, we have lost our present moment awareness and that drains our power. Stay with your thoughts yet remember. Thoughts are not facts.
EPISODE DESCRIPTION We spoke to Cathy Dixon a therapist, but not as you know them. She is a coach and a mentor who founded Energy Roots after being trained in several healing modalities including Shiatsu, acupuncture, Chi Kung and hypnotherapy.Cathy came to our studio and we spoke about the narratives imposed on our lives by institutions, by others and even by ourselves. We learned of the wonders of the energy nodes in the human body, how beliefs are attached to emotions and the myopic mistake of talking about good and bad energies. All in all, a stimulating and cathartic converstion which now you can listen to. With Andre López Turner and Juan Toledo