Words Can’t Hurt You — Unless You Let Them

Reacting to people based on their words and behaviour on the surface is misdirected. How we interpret and react to what others say has to do with internal processes that we have the power to direct and control. Commit to letting go of the tendency to interpret what others think or mean and see what happens. 

Consider how your thoughts can deepen your emotional reactions:

  • Just thinking about it makes me angry. 
  • think he/she is such a pain in the neck. 
  • The mere thought of him/her makes me shiver. 
  • I’m getting a headache just thinking about it. 
  • When I think of that song, I feel warm all over. 

Close your eyes and concentrate on a person or an event. How do you feel? It is possible to make yourself feel good or bad without any external input! 

Your body reacts, and strong feelings surface as your mind uses neurochemical impulses to stimulate the appropriate glands. These feelings are remembered physical experiences that happen in you, not to you. Reaction time is instantaneous, but understanding and accepting the view that your reactions are internal is a giant step toward emotional control. 

Nothing illustrates the power of words better than Angie’s story. Angie’s father is a police officer. She was so proud of her dad that she could hardly wait to show him off to her class. One day he visited her school and gave a terrific presentation. She beamed with pride, but after class several students scoffed at the “pig.” 

Angie raced home in tears. Her mother greeted her at the door and dried Angie’s tears, telling her: “If you make the pig the most beautiful creature in the world, when they call your dad a pig—it’s a compliment!” 

From that time on, Angie and her family used the pig as a symbol of beauty. Today, she proudly wears a Pig Pin. At her father’s promotion he wore a Porky Pig tie under his uniform. To this day he displays Miss Piggy prominently in his office, and Angie’s friends send her all kinds of interesting pig souvenirs.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me!” (Unless I choose to hurt!)

When words sting, remind yourself that words have no intrinsic meaning. Meaning is in your interpretation and assumptions, not the words themselves.

Headache pain is a serious issue costing North American businesses more than $17 billion in lost annual production. The Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute conducted a study that revealed that half of headache sufferers miss at least two days of work a month. Doctors tell us that headaches happen in us—not to us, but how many times have you heard someone say, “I feel myself getting a headache”?

Consider this: If you own a headache, you can disown it. (Remember, we are discussing pain resulting from overemotional reactions here, not physical conditions.) 

When you feel yourself getting a headache, put yourself back in charge by thinking about it in terms of something that you might be giving to yourself. Consider the option of not giving the headache to yourself. 

The principles of self-direction and emotional control are at your disposal, if and when you decide to tap into their power.