Can Words Really Hurt Like a Fist?
Many of us tend to underestimate the power of words and the impact those words may have on another person. The language as well as the verbiage used can cut both sharply and deeply, leaving no room to misunderstanding or misinterpretations of their intent. During our early childhood we were constantly reminded of the following phrase “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Unfortunately, this is neither accurate or true, leading to feelings of confusion and questioning our own sensitivity level. Once we realize we have been affected by words directed at us or s we were called we begin to question whether or not we are being overly sensitive to the words or comments. The sticks and stones phrase was actually meant to empower children, insisting they had the power to control his or her reactions to the negative words of others. Ongoing verbal abuse and taunts can cause many people to start to question themselves and things they once did not question or was once a source of pride. Words both positive and negative have the ability and power to change our perception of ourselves. Anyone who has been subjected to ongoing put-downs, name calling, threats, cruel jokes, and derogatory comments, know the effect of these words is just as bad as being hit. Just like physical abuse and assault, verbal abuse gradually begins to wear the victim down creating feelings of being less than, unworthy of, and possibly deserving of such negative and abusive words. Abusive and derogatory words can break down the victim’s self-esteem, creating depressive feelings and anxiety. Most abusers apologize after verbally abusing their victim, however, with ongoing exposure to verbal abuse the impact of the words intensifies and the damage accumulates over time.
Individuals that constantly put others down do so to make themselves feel better, mask feelings of inadequacies/insecurities, or maintain some degree of power over another person. In relationships regardless of the type, familial, social, or romantic can be especially damaging if the words come from people we feel should love and accept us unconditionally. Wording in addition to tone and inflection can have the same or similar effects of a weighted fist. Negative wording by people we love can be extremely distressing, leading to significant emotional pain that can take on physical features, nausea, anxiety, headaches, stomachache, etc.
Jill & Mark
Jill and Mark have been married for 2 years, they have no children. Jill has always known Mark has a “unique” sense of humor, often telling lewd and crude jokes. Before they were married Mark would make jokes at Jill’s expense regarding her body and his “settling for a less than curvy woman”. Jill light heartedly played along with Mark’s jokes until she realized she started having a negative emotional reaction to his jokes. Often after Mark would make jokes at Jill’s expense it would be difficult for her to refrain from crying. Recently, Mark has been telling anyone who would listen how Jill had failed to become pregnant within the last year of their marriage. Mark insists they have been trying for the last year, however, because Jill was “underweight” she may not be able to successfully get pregnant. The jokes have head such a negative impact on Jill that not only has she been unable to get pregnant but she has started lose weight, making her facial bones more pronounced.