What words destroy you?
I love you. I loathe you. I am disgusted by you. I adore you. We can do this. We don’t have a hope. It’s all over. Don’t give up.
Read those words again. Can you feel a tiny bit of emotion with every one? Like a long shadow cast by a feeling, just a sample of how it would feel to have those words whispered into our ears. From a close friend, from an enemy, from a stranger. You can feel their impact even without them being said to you. Because they are just as powerful if said by you to yourself.
All these are just letters, rearranged in different orders and yet, just like a tune, in certain orders they can make us recoil, make our hair stand on end or make us the happiest, most motivated person on the planet. And yet they are just letters, rearranged so that in our understanding they actually convey so much more. They link us to the past, the present and the future. I’ve often thought that without words and language we never could have created a story about the future, or made up a reason for the past being as it was. So before language, were we all much happier? I suspect we were, just like a dog doesn’t dwell on the past and lives in the moment. The animal doesn’t have the choice to have regrets or despair over lost opportunities, it just lives for today.
Of course, language has a purpose for without it we could not communicate our dreams or our goals, we could not describe a future and share in its unfolding. We could not plan and we could not learn any more than basic cause and effect outcomes. But like any tool it can be used for good or bad and, like any power tool, you really ought to be careful how you use it. At the very least, notice that the thing is on, red hot and working! But, the simple truth is, it’s always on and working inside our heads. So much so, we forget it’s there and that’s when we ought to be most wary. For when words run amok in our skull and create scenarios they can be positive or negative, right or wrong. Often they get stuck and on a single setting, such as ‘fear’. That then generates more words and more ‘what if’ scenario painting and sometimes the picture bears no resemblance to reality and yet by then we’re in the middle of a physiological response and all manner of hormones are circling in our bodies lending us to believe that there really is a huge danger and we ought to be running somewhere or raising our fists.
Meditation or mindfulness is one way to notch the tool down a setting. And you don’t have to sit in a room quietly, you can be mindful in an occupation like riding your motorbike or cycle, or while reading. Anything that requires focussed attention so that your misbehaving, random mind words don’t choose their own path in your head and come up with dragons or zombies or other people’s motives for whatever just happened. But by far I’ve found the best way to deal with your own instant word generator is to realise it’s there. Realise it doesn’t always tell you the facts or give you the whole picture. Confirmation bias or negativity bias subjects us to a corralling of our thoughts. Like barriers up at a bowling alley that thought is destined for one place only - the end of the lane. But simply knowing this, opens up a doorway and at least gives us a chance to step outside and look back at ourselves, if only for a minute at first, and see we were ignoring other facts or not putting ourselves in other people’s shoes.
The words in your head define your moment right now
Can cause a tear or a smile
Can motivate you or silence you
Can make you sick or well
Can change others
Can be a beginning or an end
The words you speak to yourself make you who you are.
And yes, you can choose them.
HAPPY NEW YEAR! And may 2022 be full of good choices by you.
Existentialism is about choosing life, above all knowing you have a choice over your destiny. Not allowing others to direct you, but finding your own path. I realised this later in life, but that’s okay. It doesn’t matter when you get there, because a day or a year or ten years as your authentic self is better than nothing.