Self-Defeating Thoughts: The Weight of the Word
The Weight of the Word
by Thaddeus Camlin, Psy.D.
Humanity has a keen knack for degrading our most powerful creations. Many creatures produce sounds, but in an inspired moment of momentous artistry humans harnessed the production of sound to form the word. From the word language was born. Language, in turn, gave voice to our fascinating, mysterious consciousness and made community possible. Cooperation in community allowed our species to successfully colonize nearly every corner of the planet, a truly magnificent accomplishment for a relatively small, slow, land-bound mammal.
Sometimes, we honor the true power of language, as reflected in proverbs like, ‘the pen is mightier than the sword.’ More often, however, humanity engages in our peculiar proclivity for self-deception and we convince ourselves that language is inconsequential, benign, and beleaguered. From our earliest days on the playground we are told that we should not be affected by words. It’s okay to be hurt by sticks and stones, but if words cut us we are weak. The truth is that deep into adulthood we strain to recall the physical scratches and bruises from childhood, but often recall with exceptional clarity the verbal insults we endured. All too often those insults are integrated into our identity and the cost is incredible.
When working to change the way we think of ourselves, the weight of the words we select to describe ourselves is often dismissed as a game. “Oh, you’re just playing semantics,” is a common refrain in reflections on word choice, labels, and thought patterns. The reality of reality, however, is that we mold it and shape it with our thoughts and beliefs. Thoughts are what pop into our mind, and thus we have little control over them. Beliefs, however, are the thoughts we attend to and focus on, and in the focusing of our attention lies tremendous freedom.
If we focus our attention on self-defeating thoughts then we are active participants in the subterfuge of our own magnificence. The refrains in our minds play out in the days of our lives. If we dance to a chorus of insults and absolutes, if we hope for happiness amidst putrefying beliefs that we are worthless, that we mess everything up, that we’re diseased addicts, that we are unlovable, can we honestly expect any semblance of inner peace in our lives? The weight of the words that construct the script for the feature play in our psychic theater determines the themes and tones of the story that is our lives. The good news is that we actively author that script each and every day, and we can always expand and refine our vocabulary as we put pen to paper and define our existence.