There is that old saying, "Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can never hurt you." That's a crock of dog shit. I've had physical injuries, torn ligaments, needed stitches. All have healed with much less pain and scarring than the words that haunt me.
Lisa's post about the Canadian sex offender on her blog, Sadly Normal brings this point home. The criminal was interviewed following his arrest. "A psychiatrist who examined the accused following his arrest said the man tried to portray the girl as a willing participant. The doctor’s report quoted the man as saying: 'It takes two to tango. She knows she was having the same thoughts I was.'" What the hell? She was 4 or 5 when it started. A 4-5 year is not capable of consenting. What kind of person looks at a 4-5 year old child and thinks that the child can, could, is possible of or would "consent"? Unfortunately I know those words all too well, even if I was a bit older when I heard them. I can say that the words will likely haunt that child far beyond the physical acts. Words do hurt. They hurt when they are said and they hurt when you hear them over and over in your head for years.
Words said flippantly hurt too. Last night I was very jumpy and panicky. I was trying to keep things under control through dinner, with the thought of lying down after we ate. Must not have done a great job, because my Husband said "what is your problem. Why are you acting all crazy?" CRAZY? Because I am crazy. Because I feel trapped in our kitchen - like the walls are closing in. Because I jump whenever you, our daughter or the dog brush up against me. Because you are in my way every time I move to get the milk out. Or put something on the table. Because when I go in to finally take 5 minutes and lie down, I feel like my heart is beating so rapidly and so strong that it will pop out of my chest - yet I take my pulse and it's normal. So it's all in my head. Because I take 9 pills per day just to maintain some semblance of normalcy. If that is "crazy" then I guess I am.
Words stink and words hurt. Far more often it is the words that trigger me. Words people say or the words I hear in my head. The "forgive and forget"......"you wanted it"......"get over it"......"why can't you just let this go"....."you liked it"....."when are you going to be done dealing with all this"......."why are you so jumpy"........"sometimes I think you exaggerate just to get more breaks"
I teach my clients, when answering questions, to count to 3 slowly in their head. It gives me time to object. But more importantly, it gives them time to truly think about their answer and not to respond in anger. I think all adults would be well served by remembering that rule. I know I would do well to remember that rule. I also need to remember that some people fight with words. Deliberately say words to "get your goat" and upset you. I need to learn to let certain words roll off my back and to "consider the source" in letting people get to me or affect me.
I'm not going to teach my child that "sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you." I am going to teach her that words are powerful. They have formed the basis of some incredible revolutions in history. Some words like, "I have a dream" will forever be remembered. When she speaks, I want her to weigh words carefully. I also want her to know that she doesn't have to hide her hurt or sadness at other people's words. That it is "normal" to be affected by them.
As for me, I responded to my husband, "yeah I am crazy. Thanks for noticing." To which he responded, [sigh] "I didn't mean it that way." To which I responded, "well then maybe you shouldn't have said it that way." Maybe I can teach that old dog some new tricks.....if I repeat myself often enough!
EDITED TO ADD - USE YOUR VOICE - this girl did. And won a huge victory. Way to go!!!