I cannot pronounce Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh's name, but I love his writing.
Like when he said, "Words can get sick and lose their meaning. We have to detoxify the words and make them healthy again."
We may not be aware of it, but all of us are toxifying or detoxifying words throughout our lives. Most of our dominant words have gone through changes of meaning as we have seen more of life.
Take the word love. In our earliest years, we gain our meaning from parental love. If we have a good mother, the word comes to mean warmth, security, tenderness and kindness. If we have a bad mother, it may come to mean a lack of warmth, security, tenderness and kindness. At some point, we have to realize how the word was perverted by a disturbed mother and detoxify it, or we will carry it into all our adult relationships.
The same is true for a father. We tend to underestimate the impact of our fathers on our personalities and lives. If we have a good father, the word love tends to mean protection, strength, stability and gentleness. If we have a bad father, it tends to mean a lack of protection, strength, stability and gentleness. Again, unless we detoxify how our father has colored the meaning of the word love, we will carry this concept of love into our adult relationships.
Detoxification is seldom a simple, one-time thing because of a psychological mechanism called "repression." This is a tendency we all have to push away painful thoughts and bury them deeply into our subconscious. Who likes to admit their parents were imperfect? Who likes to look down on "mama and daddy"?
Painful as it may be, we all need to continually try to see our parents as objectively as we can. To evaluate them is not unfair. It is necessary if we are to detoxify the concepts they passed on to us.
If your mother was cold, it may be hard for you to be be warm and responsive in intimate relationships. Admit that. Say, "My mother was not always warm-natured, and it has made me slower to learn to be warm and responsive, but I am working on it." If your father was full of anger, say "My father had a lot of anger, and I am now having trouble with it, but I am working on it."
Sometimes we can detoxify a word by simply using common sense. After a marriage ended where I felt I had been well used, I became aware I was transferring my anger over to all women. I then asked myself, "Wasn't your mother a good person?" and my answer was "Yes!" Then I asked, "Hasn't your sister been a true friend to you?" and again my answer was a strong "Yes!" Then I asked, "Hasn't your daughter been loving and good to you?" and I knew she had. So the final question was, "Then how can you be down on all women?"
To detox a word or a concept, we must use our objective mind and then develop positive emotional words and concepts that have the power to cancel the emotional garbage we have built up.
We can develop skill at detoxifying our words.
Email Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com.