Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Will Never Hurt Me
Many of us were brought up singing this poem; truth is, it couldn’t be further from reality. It was a thinly-veiled attempt to encourage “toughness," and, "turning the other cheek." However, words that we speak and that are spoken to us, last long after they are said or heard. How many times a day do we carelessly say things to ourselves or others? We say things like, “I hate my hair,” “I’m so stupid,” “I’m worthless,” “I’m fat.” We never think that these words bring negative energy into our vibration and affect us on a physical level, but they do. Masaru Emoto, a Japanese author, researcher, photographer and entrepreneur, claimed that human consciousness has an effect on the molecular structure of water. Emoto's conjecture evolved over the years. His early work explored his beliefs that water could react to positive thoughts and words, and polluted water could be cleaned through prayer and positive visualization. Why? Because sound vibration travels through water four times faster than it does through open air. Consider the fact that your body is over 70% water and you’ll understand how quickly the vibration from negative words resonates in your cells. Ancient scriptures tell us that life and death are in the power of the tongue. As it turns out, that’s not a metaphor.
This is a more accurate version of the poem, with the impact of words that hurt:
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can also hurt me. Stones and sticks break only skin, while words are ghosts that haunt me. Slant and curved the word-sword falls, it pierces and sticks inside me. Bats and bricks may ache through bones, but words can mortify me. Pain from words has left its' scar, on mind and heart that's tender. Cuts and bruises have not healed, it's words that I remember. ― Ruby Redfort
Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
When we think about some of the words we were fed, and frankly, some of the words we feed to ourselves and others, we can better understand some of the actions we have taken and the patterns that developed as a result of those actions. What a lot of people don’t realize is that beliefs, thoughts, and words make an imprint on our brains in such a way that we are intruded with automatic negative thoughts. These thoughts often seem to just show up out of nowhere. According to Dr. Daniel Amen, who originated the term Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS), “Every time you have a sad, hopeless, mad, cranky, unkind, judgmental, or helpless thought, your brain immediately releases chemicals that make your body feel awful. Your hands get cold and wet, your muscles get tense, your heart beats faster, and your breathing becomes shallower. Additionally, the activity in your frontal and temporal lobes decreases which negatively affects your judgment, learning, memory. The opposite is also true – whenever you have a happy, hopeful, loving, kind, or positive thought, your brain releases a completely different set of chemicals. Your hands get warmer and dryer, your breathing becomes deeper and more regular, your muscles relax, your blood pressure decreases, and your brain works better.”
So, if you want to change your thoughts, negative beliefs, words, habits, and the quality of life, we need to exterminate the ANTS. Ok, sounds good, how do we exterminate ? Glad you asked. We use the exact same process we’ve become accustomed to, just in a different way. Instead of verbally abusing ourselves, we begin to use affirmations, even if we don’t quite believe our words. Here’s a list of some ANTS, that are often crawling around in our heads, and affirmations that can help exterminate the ANTS:
• Fortune Telling – when you are masterful at predicting the worst, even though they don’t have any evidence. You’re never going to make it vs. I’m in a tough place and I am empowered to create a life I love.
• Mind Reading –where you arbitrarily believe that you know what someone else is thinking, even though they didn’t tell you. Many people do this, and more often than not it gets them into trouble. It’s a major reason why people have trouble in relationships. You don’t like me vs. Everyone feels insecure at times and I am lovable.
• Guilt Beatings – thinking with words like "should", "must", "ought," and "have to". The words we use to talk to ourselves are very important. Guilt is not a very good motivator for change. Telling yourself “I should go see my grandmother” rather than “I want to spend time with my grandmother” only serves to make you feel negative. I should be further along vs. Even though I feel stuck, I am progressing one day at a time.
• Blame – whenever you blame someone else for the problems in your life, you are a victim and you can’t do anything to change it. Many of us play the blame game, but it rarely helps us. Stay away from blaming thoughts and take personal responsibility for changing the problems you have. It’s your fault that I don’t … vs. There are times when I don’t feel like I have a handle on things and I am capable to make the necessary changes to do what is needed.
• Labeling – calling yourself or someone else a derogatory name. This diminishes your ability to see situations clearly and labels are very harmful.
I am a loser vs. Even though I can’t see my good qualities, I am resilient and I know this is temporary.
The bottom line is that there is proven scientific research, not woo woo, confirming that we can rewire our brains and rewrite our lives. One way we can do that is by changing our words, thoughts and beliefs. This science is called neuroplasticity. It means that our thoughts can change the structure and function of our brains. The idea was first introduced by William James in 1890, but it was soundly rejected by scientists who uniformly believed the brain is rigidly mapped out, with certain parts of the brain controlling certain functions. If that part is dead or damaged, the function is altered or lost. Some examples are the old belief that once we are 5 years old, we are set in our ways, or the common phrases “ You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” and, “A leopard doesn’t change its spots.” Even if these words or similar ones have held us hostage to the point that our lives seemingly validate them, you do not need to continue down this path. Neuroplasticity now carries wide acceptance as scientists are proving the brain is endlessly adaptable and dynamic. It has the power to change its own structure, even for those with the severe neurological afflictions. People with problems such as strokes, cerebral palsy, and mental illness can train other areas of their brains through repetitive mental and physical activities. This is completely life-altering. Words that we have held onto as personal descriptions of who we are, that were not loving or encouraging, were never true and never will be.
Lastly, understand that as you embark upon rewiring your brain, by being on an ANT extermination mission through self-affirmation, there will definitely be a war in your mind. Thoughts such as,“This doesn’t work,” “If affirmations worked, why am I still feeling the same,” etc. may come up. Keep going and remind yourself:
I am wise, my perception is spot on and I make choices that create abundance, with ease and grace. I am powerful beyond measure, and my life impacts the world with positive imprints. Even in darkness, I am constantly aware of light, lovingly guiding me into doors that I never knew were there, providing all that I need for this part of the journey.