Have you ever noticed that writing out a word is called “spelling” it? Hiding in plain sight, we find a curious play on the double meaning of the word “spell”. Spell – as in the noun – is something most people would delegate to the world of magic, superstition and fantasy.
We are, literally, casting spells every time we open our mouths. Those “spells” we cast with the words we use and how we use them dramatically influences us, as well as those around us. Just like gravity, the power of words affects you in a very real way, regardless of whether you are aware of it or not. Most people are indeed oblivious to the power of words. Therefore, the words that form our vocabularies are generally used in a haphazard and mostly careless manner.
That is to say that we can use words in a much more purposeful manner to communicate with and impact upon others. But to do this requires us to become more conscious of how we use words, as well as how those words do impact others.
The sway of words
You may have noticed that people are prone to react to certain words or phrases in a particular manner. A case in point is the general reaction from conservative people when swear words of the more profane variety are uttered in their midst. The same goes for any politically incorrect set of terms and phrases of a particular country, culture or even gender.
A simple word can evoke a tremendous emotional reaction from certain individuals. This phenomenon is used extensively by statesmen in political rallies to mobilize people into a certain course of action or way of thinking. Many well-trained sales people in the fields of marketing and advertising are also versed in the power of words.
Certain words and phrases have been highly energized within our modern society, as has been the case with each age. In other words, people are trained to react in a particular way to such terms over time.
Therefore, words can be rather manipulative (or empowering) when used by individuals who understand their subtle but potent power. There is more to be said about being on the receiving end of the power of words, but let us focus on how to become more aware of how we use words.
The tower of Babel
And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered. For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly.
Language can sometimes limit us in expressing how we really feel. The great poets have helped us in this regard, because part of their craft is to push the boundaries on how words convey deeper meaning. Yet language can cause us huge confusion.
You see, when 2 people are talking to each other, both assumes that the other understands what they are saying. Yet when you hear the words of another, those words passes first through your own lenses, filters and projections. It means that people tend to hear what they want to hear, and not necessarily what is being said. This is particularly true when we use subjective language.
One way of sidestepping this dynamic is to occasionally ask the question: “What do you mean?”. This simple question can be a real act of service to someone. I said that the words that form our vocabularies are generally used in a very haphazard and mostly careless manner. This question often helps another person clarify for themselves what they are trying to say, for their sake as well as for your own.
In the beginning
When you start engaging your attention to become more aware of what and how people say things, you may realize that people tend to talk about the same kinds of things over and over. People tend to repeat the same story about their life and about their past. They tell this story to others and to themselves as well. The question here is whether their narrative comes from their life circumstances, or whether their narrative actually influences their life circumstances. Could this be?
In the text of a popular religious scripture, we find the following passage:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Perhaps there is more to that statement than meets the eye. It suggests that the “word” preceded creation. Could that be? And if so, what is this “Word”? Let’s imagine this Word to be some kind of organizing principle or force.
While the quote refers to “creation”, there is a similar force operating in our own lives. We are naturally create-ive beings. As such, we can employ this “force” as a create-ive tool to our own benefit. But to do this, what is required is to use your words more consciously. What I am alluding to is that we use the power of words to create our realities according to how we use or misuse this power.
The stories that we tell ourselves (and others) about ourselves and our lives are of far greater import than you might suspect. It is not that I am advocating a mere positive and optimistic attitude, for it goes far beyond this. When dealing with the power of words, the idea is to become more aware that energy flows where attention goes.