“Walk gently into the lives of others. Not all wounds are visible.”
Sometimes, a simple question carelessly tossed around can reopen wounds, and although we are not in charge of someone else’s reaction, we are accountable for the ripple effect our words and actions generate in those around us.
Words are powerful. They are vehicles that help us express emotions as well as expressing conscious/subconscious bias. One kind word can go a long way, and a mean one can bring down low self-esteem; words build up and destroy egos, and also gift us with the resonance of stories that preserve cultures. It doesn’t come as a surprise then that throughout human history, conquerors repressed or annulled the vernacular language of the lands they invaded.
Unkind and passive-aggressive remarks hurt others, whether the words are uttered consciously or subconsciously, and hidden behind them are insecurities, fear of intimacy, and lack of empathy. Diminishing others, using subtle accusations and then justifying the action by blaming the other for their misunderstanding is plain manipulation.
“I did not call you stupid. I said you were being stupid. It is not the same. You probably misunderstood because…" (place the excuse here)
A simple question such as “do you have a partner” asked out of context in a patronising intent “to put someone in his/her place” can be quite traumatic to a person going through bereavement or a painful divorce as it might trigger trauma response. In cases like this, it is possible to turn around the energy attached to the comment by using it to fuel a better understanding of the personal process of acceptance and letting go.
If still hurt, what is this pain showing me?
How can I manage this… Sadness? Anger. Confusion?
Can I do this on my own, or do I need help?
Words have the power to expose vulnerability, uncaring comments create ripples, and having experienced painful losses and divorce in my own life, I am aware of the body's response to questions perceived as intruding into personal areas.
This post-traumatic response can be deactivated using a simple, yet effective technique: conscious breathing.
Here is how to implement it:
1. Sit comfortably with your back supported, feet firmly on the ground, arms resting on your lap
2. Close your eyes
3. Inhale slowly counting 4 seconds. (Breathe from your diaphragm, not your chest. )
4. Keep the breath. 4 seconds
5. Exhale expelling the air through your mouth. 4 seconds.
*When starting with conscious breathing, it helps to place your hands on your belly and feel your diaphragm rise and fall with each breath.
Concentrating in the breath's rhythm, keeping it at a steady pace, reduces anxiety, oxygenate cells, and act as a regulator, aiding the brain to manage the influx of emotions more effectively.
Part of living a conscious life involved awareness of actions, and to bring that awareness into daily life, we can use self-reflection:
What do I expect to achieve by saying and/or doing this?
Will this action improve the quality of my life and/or the life of others?
What is my motivation to say/do this action?
Any of these self-reflecting questions will give clarity regarding your personal motives.
More often than not, we are wrapped up in ourselves and someone will take the brant of our frustration. Instead of assuming that the other is trying to get us/lecture us/compete with us, take a deep breath and actively listen, find your boundaries. Remember, we are all cotton until we change into silk. Be kind.
Sandra Codd is Neuro Linguistic Programming life coach and apprentice storyteller at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh. Scotland. She helps people going through life and relationship challenges. English/ Spanish. Online and in- person.