Words (1)

Words in so many languages

In my previous blog post on technical writing, I talked about words being at the heart of human creation. They form the ideas that change our physical world. In this post, I want to talk more about how words create change, and how we can use the power of words to start creating change within ourselves.

Look around you. Unless you’re standing in the woods, chances are most everything you see was at one point a discussion between a few people, or an idea somebody got from talking to somebody else. The smartphone or computer you are reading this on. The car you’re driving. The newest breed of cat. Not much in our world is natural anymore. (Google “Anthropocene”). And all this because people keep asking, “What if I did this?” (“What if I get a cute baby python? Wouldn’t that be cool!”)

It’s not just the physical world of course. Our politics, our media, our laws, our knowledge, our perceptions  … EVERYTHING hinges on words. Words and the ideas they represent have supreme power in the human world, and they evolve and grow along with us.

It’s important to remember that words are just tools. They have no morality. They can be used equally for good or for bad. Your newsfeed is no doubt full of stories about bad players using words for all kinds of nefarious purposes, and whole industries are devoted to twisting words to create profit, or worse. (Google “Cambridge Analytica.”) And I’ve noticed that some leaders disavow or discredit the words they say at the same time as they use them to plant horrible ideas (“A lot of people are saying …”) Yep, people use words (and images) in twisted ways these days. It makes sense to be wary of the words you hear or read. It also makes sense to be wary of the words you use about yourself.

Watch your language!

The language you use gives you power, or robs you of it. If you are part of the 99.9% of humanity (estimated) who isn’t a hardened narcissist, chances are you use negative language to define yourself. It’s how most of us were raised, it’s in our environment, it’s drilled into us.

I catch myself using negative language about myself all the time. I am more on top of it now, but it is still a very easy trap to fall into. The “Itty Bitty Shitty Committee” (IBSC) planted in your head is ruthless if you let it be. “I’m not good enough,” “I can’t,” “If only I had done it differently,” “They are way smarter than me,” “I better not say anything,” “It’s what people are saying about me.” You may have similar edicts issued by your own IBSC.

The goal is to recognize when your ISBC is engaged, and try to stop it from wasting your time and energy. It’s an ongoing battle and takes lots of self-knowledge. The process can be helped when you’re open to getting kind feedback from others. (And, on the other hand, you need awareness to know when feedback is not kind and needs to be ignored.)

A few years back a sage teacher told me to write “I will try” many many times on a piece of paper, wrap it around a small rock (obsidian, to cleanse psychic smog) and bury it in the woods. This ceremony sealed it for me: I consciously avoid that expression now, or at least am aware when I say it. I shoulda listened to Yoda, “Do or do not. There is no try.” Speaking of shoulda, that’s another word that gives away your power. You can’t change the past, so don’t spend your time worrying about it. Focus on the now and what you can do to make amends and move forward.

I’m now working on the theory that all the non-committal words we use to beat ourselves up and feel inadequate (I’ll try, I should, I can’t) can usually be boiled down to “I don’t want to.” The wishful words (I wish, I hope, I pray, If only) can, if we are being sincere using them, be boiled down to “I want (but I dare not dream it’s possible)”. It would be an interesting world if everyone just said “I want to” or “I don’t want to.” A bit scary and in-your-face, but less complicated with less politics and way more achievement of personal and societal goals.

I’ve had great feedback from caring people over the years, and now I’ve started annoying others by pointing out when their words rob them of power. We all deserve better than to go around wishing and hoping and praying and never doing anything about it.

A very wise woman told me once that we as humans have the power to change everything in our world if we just change our thoughts. At that time in my life I didn’t understand what she meant at all. But she did plant an idea in my head, and now I see her vision. If enough people were more careful with their words and started to use them to change their way of thinking, who knows where it could lead?