Tag Archives: past

Sticks and Stones are Secondary

30 Mar

Did you grow up in the era of  “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!”

Childhood memories can be brutal – especially if you were ever accosted by a bully.  It didn’t happen more than a couple of times to me, but I remember yelling these words hoping the bullies chasing me would somehow get tripped up by some magical force that the words conjured up! They never threw punches, but the unkind words they flung could be far more damaging.

“Ugly duckling!”  “You look like a boy!”  “Pigeon toes!”  Words thrown in haste that decades later, for most of us, can still sting.

Names and words can be powerful weapons that can inflict pain, rejection or verbal “spanking” of others.  I believe that words can turn into W.O.M. – weapons of mass destruction, and cause widespread damage to whole societies.  (Hitler used words to effectively control a nation and alienate the world.)

I recall the story of a bully whose father caught him taunting the neighborhood kids. As punishment, he made his son put nails into a fence for each name he had yelled.  The fence was covered with nails by the time he was finished, and the father talked to his son about the damage he was causing.  The son recognized the bad behavior and promised to stop bullying.  When a day that passed without name calling, the father allowed the son to remove some nails from the fence, until it was finally clear of nails.  The lingering message came on the last day when the father showed the son the holes that remained in the fence.  The son then realized the lingering damage of careless words.

Today, many parents refrain from corporal punishment (physical spanking), but fail to recognize the harm they inflict by the verbal spankings they unleash with their words.  (It is oft quoted that children hear the word “no” around 67,000 times by the time they reach the age of two, and the word “yes” far less!)

What is worse – physical or verbal abuse? 

If you believe the opening line of this post (sticks and stones…), you may not agree that words and tone can cause damage.  But I would bet that unless you have the most confidence and the most wonderful parents in the world, you probably still cringe when you recall harsh words of grownups from your past.  Why do we convict those who use physical abuse as their weapon and not those who use words to the same effect?

This week, a new documentary called “Bully” opened in select theatres across the country.  The filmmakers chronicled the life of a teenage victim, in the hopes of raising awareness and curtailing bullying in schools. I agree that it is time we take action to stop school yard bullies so that all children can concentrate on learning (a good strategic move for our nation!)

Next steps…

Maybe the next step after that will be to face the less obvious, but sometimes worse, cyber bullying and verbal abuse.  But, first, we as adults, need to stop and recognize the power of words to cause harm.  Guilt, shame, rejection, and embarrassment… these are but a few of the emotions we can stir up with pointy words.  We would never poke someone’s eye out with a stick, but we don’t think twice about stabbing them with words.

(Sidenote:  sometimes parents even use these tactics on their grown children to coerce or manipulate them into submission.  I’ve seen plenty of examples of this from friends whose parents don’t realize they are no longer children.)   

Perhaps the first step towards healing our societies is to reword the childhood adage… to maybe “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will ever hurt me.”

Just food for thought…

Carol

Baggage Fees for People…

13 Mar

Whatever life takes away from you, let it go.  When you surrender and let go of the past, you allow yourself to be fully alive in the moment. – don Miguel Ruiz

This is true whether life has taken from you your life savings, relationships (toxic or not), possessions, emotions, or people.

In our capitalist society, we grow up with the illusion that whoever amasses the most things – wins!  In addition to material things, we hold emotions and experiences, and keep them forever (even when it is not good for us!)  Sometimes I think we are like the TV showHoarders” with the amount of intellectual and emotional baggage we drag behind us.  (If you do not think you are “packing” baggage, think about how often you serenade friends with the same litany of a past hurt…)

The analogy of baggage fees for emotional baggage hit me the other day at the airport as a fashionista was unloading her luggage on to a baggage cart for an upcoming flight. She was aghast when the agent assessed her with hundreds of dollars in “extra” baggage fees, and I realized that this same situation could work well with the invisible baggage we all insist on bringing with us.

Think about it for a minute – why do we need to bring a “steamer trunk” full of childhood pain along to a family picnic?  The answer is that we DON”T!

Imagine if we could visualize the baggage that we and everyone else bring along when we go out?  Picture this hilarious scenario:  People at a picnic surrounded by masses of steamer trunks (full of crap), garment bags (with clothes that no longer fit) , sports equipment (long worn out), golf bags (with mismatched clubs), garbage bags (filled with discarded papers), and suitcases so old they need duct tape to stay together.

It would be the most bizarre scene from “Hoarders” (people who discard nothing!)

Baggage fees for people?

If we were forced to pay fees (which we do unconsciously) for each unnecessary piece of baggage we brought the world economy would restart in a minute!  The world would change for the better in two ways:

  1. People would carefully pack only the luggage they need to take on a journey and discard the rest (we would all be more emotionally healthy!);
  2. Those who wish to remain emotional “hoarders” would contribute financially for the privilege!

The emotional baggage we carry is invisible, yet we drag, push, and pull way too much of it along like some sort of badge of honor.  If it were real, some of it would smell bad, be oozing out of its containers, and some of it would be so dangerous as to alert the “HAZMAT” team (hazardous materials).

We do not realize that life could be so much easier (with great fitness benefits to our emotional health) by discarding, recycling, reframing, and forgiving the things we lost in the past and that life took from us. Things we thought we need to keep might actually be costing us unconsciously by holding on to them.  Clear out your storage locker and your mind of this clutter and make room for new emotions and wonderful experiences today. (Related post: New Math – Subtraction can add Years to your life!)

We need to take inventory and streamline our journey forward by discarding the worn out and out-of-date from our lives!

Starting today, I am going to work to discard the waste, and watch what bags I pack to go out tonight.

If it is more than I can fit into a small purse – it is tooooooo much!  If I go out and drag along a few extra steamer trunks (out of habit), I will ask my friends to collect baggage fees at the table.  What do you think?

Have a great (baggage free) week!

Carol

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