For today class, to reinforce the concept of mental programming, I thought we would turn our attention to the bad words of the world. As an introductory quiz, please take a clean sheet of paper and in the next 30 seconds write down every bad word or short phrase you can think of. Abbreviations are permissible. I’ll wait…
Finished? OK, lemme check… Whoa! Some of you did really good! You have listed some words that I hadn’t even thought of. On the other hand, there are a few of you who have apparently been leading excessively sheltered lives. You really should get out more.
Did you enjoy that little exercise? Sort of like a mental laxative, huh? OK, for those of you who thought it was completely stupid, I agree with you completely. In fact, my clean sheet of paper is still…yep, completely clean. (For those of you who are leaping ahead and already see the full logic in this, you’re just going to have to chill out for a couple of minutes while I bring everyone else up to speed.)
For the rest of you, my paper is completely clean because…are you ready for this..? There is no such a thing as a “bad” word! THINK about it! Words are just combinations of letters or sounds that we humans use to represent a concept. They’re just squiggly little lines on a piece of paper or computer screen. They’re just varying little sound waves that wiggle the tiny hairs in our middle ear. We see the squiggles and hear the sounds – and translate them into something semi-meaningful. We produce the squiggles and sounds to communicate with other humans. With a little luck, we will have already generally agreed on the meanings of these symbols and communications will occur.
Words carry only the meaning or connotation that we have assigned to them. We consider them to be “good” or “bad” because our parents, teachers, society, etc., have told us –sometimes through painful reinforcement – that they are good or bad. We individually learn and are essentially programmed to intuitively “know” which words are bad. Our subconscious is programmed to apply strong negative connotations to some of these “bad” words. And yes, to be fair here, we are also programmed to apply strong positive connotations to many of the “good” words.
We set limits on who can say many of these words and where these words can be used. Think about it. When was the last time you heard a minister say “sh--” in front of the congregation? And yet, this is one of most expressive words in the language and is commonly used effectively to express a wide range of emotions. The language in the locker room is considerably different than that used in the board room. The language used in the bedroom is usually different than that used at the dining room table – or in front of our kids. We normally use language that is acceptable within our immediate environment and acceptable to us personally.
Personal acceptance and any resulting connotation is ultimately an individual thing. No, I’m not advocating that we all fill our daily conversations with those words that are not acceptable in our immediate situation/environment. What I am saying is that the personal – and sometimes emotional – impact that words have on us is the result of our life-long programming and that in reality, the power of words – all words – is limited to that which we personally bestow upon them. Maybe some of us should consider reducing that power level a couple of notches. Just a thought.
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