The Effect of Words on Our Emotional Health
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Every day we are bombarded by an onslaught of words. They come at us from every direction telling us who to listen to, what to buy, and how to behave. These messages have a great deal of influence on our everyday thoughts and actions. Words feed the soul, and the words we choose to keep and make our own eventually uplift and strengthen us or prove to be our destruction.
Take the quiz How Healthy is Your Word Diet? in the blue square to see if you are making those choices that are in your best interest (NOTE: there are no right or wrong answers, rather the opinion of the author as to what constitutes emotional health).
The following paragraphs address the words we see, hear, and experience, and how these words become a part of our very essence.
For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God....— Alma 12:14*
The words we see
Our visual world is filled with many different forms of words, from the actions we see on the screens in front of us, to the billboards and signs on the businesses we pass as we go about our daily activities. These images are recorded in full color directly into our memory banks, and replay themselves when we least expect them.
Our ability to screen out that which we do not want to keep is paramount to our emotional health. There will surely be those images that we find disturbing and degrading. These must be immediately replaced in the mind with something uplifting and edifying before they are filed into the long-term memory.
Young children need protection from images that would pull them down, as they have not yet developed the ability to differentiate between reality and imagination. To them, everything is real, whether or not the images are fabricated, or made to look like real life. They assume that what they see is true, and base their actions upon it.
As their parents, we would do well to initiate a dialogue with them about the things that we encounter when in their presence. We determine how they perceive the world. Our job is to teach them what is real and what is not, what is wise to keep, and what should be discarded. We give them a pattern to follow in the future.
Our emotional health increases when we fill the reservoir of our minds with those words and images that uplift and edify. We have a safe place to go when difficulties arise and we don't know where to turn. We are able to differentiate between the many voices around us in the world and choose an appropriate course of action.
The words we hear
The words we hear have the most dramatic affect on our emotional health. We repeat them over and over in our minds. We sing the songs with catchy melodies and meaningful beat patterns. We repeat the jingles in the advertisements, and we quote the words from the movies.
This is especially true when the words we hear come from the lips of those that we love and trust. We assume that these people know us best, and thus have a monopoly on what we need most to hear. If we hear their criticism, we think that we are not good enough. If we hear their anger, we feel that we are unloved. If we hear their condemnation, we want to crawl into a hole and hide.
In contrast, when we hear the words of love and kindness, we feel that we are worthwhile. When we hear words that point out our strengths, we feel that we can do almost anything! Words that build us up through encouragement give us the ability to do the same for others.
During those times that we hear words that tear us down, it is our emotional health that gives us the resilience to bounce back. If our memory bank is filled with positive memories from the past, we are much more likely to pull from the reserves we have to fill up the void rather than having our soul bounce due to an account deficit.
If the memories from our past are filled with difficulty and hardship, we are much more likely to internalize similar words from those that we hear on an everyday basis. We end up justifying our feelings of anger, frustration, and misery. In order to change this scenario, it is up to us to reframe our memories and generate opportunities for activities that have pleasant outcomes.
...whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.— Philippians 4:8
The words we experience
We don't just see and hear words, we live them, day in and day out. We feel them inside our minds and hearts, and we take them into our souls in such a way that they come back when we least expect them. As such, the choices we make on a daily basis are the foundation upon which our emotional health is built.
When difficulties come into our lives, the words that are regurgitated from the depths of our soul either bring us peace and comfort or leave us so unsettled, that we dare not look up to God for assistance. These beliefs are the core element of all our thoughts, feelings, and actions, and either increase or undermine our faith.
The Emotional Survival Handbook teaches us to watch for those thought patterns that indicate our faith has been undermined. Distorted thought patterns are the seeds of negative emotions, and feed us with self-talk that ultimately tears down our feelings of self-worth.
These include, but are not limited to:
When thought patterns such as these occur, we end up on a downward spiral. We see ourselves as victims and are unable to find anything good about life. We easily turn to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness.
Toby Mac, in his song Speak Life gives us the hope that if we replace these distorted thought patterns with those that speak life to our souls, we are able to look up to God, and allow his redeeming grace to come into our lives.
*The Book of Alma is found in The Book of Mormon, published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
© 2015 Denise W Anderson