The old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” has gotten an update. In fact names, words, do hurt us. A more recent version reads:
“Sticks and stones may break my bones
But words can also hurt me
Sticks and stones break only skin
While words are ghosts that haunt me.
Pain from words has left its scar
On mind and heart that’s tender
Cuts and bruises now have healed
It’s words that I remember.”
Words are powerful and once said can’t be unsaid.
In Sue Johnson’s book Love Sense, she writes that social and relational pain is as real as physical pain. There is science behind this. When people feel rejected or emotionally hurt their brain scans reveal significant activity in the same region of the brain that records physical pain. There is “neural overlap”. Researchers have found that Tylenol can actually lessen hurt feelings just as physical pain can decrease with emotional support.
The good news is that while a thoughtless remark can hurt, a kind word can mend.
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