Boris Cyrulnik, a famed French ethologist, says there's good reason to watch what you say. Most of the women he's worked with who have experienced sexual trauma have said that it was not compassion that inspired them to recover, but the influence of being told they were strong. Simply being told they were strong helped them to be that way. Cyrulnik argues that if another person expresses too much pity or horror for you, their view can actually escalate your pain.
I can relate on a personal level. I've been through some highly challenging times—some of which led me to research everything there was to know about the psychology of resilience. I found it so powerful that I shared what I learned and how it benefited me in The Bounce Back Book
. What was one of the easiest, yet most powerful, strategies for bouncing back buoyantly from adversity? Remembering the mantra, "I must watch the words I use—because they create the world I see!"
I learned the importance of surrounding myself with people who I knew would verbally reinforce my identity as a strong person. I knew on an intuitive level that positive words of encouraging faith from others would help to reinspire my own inner strength, but I didn't know that studies support this positive ripple affect on one's psyche.
Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) is a therapy that attempts to influence the subconscious mind and affect positive change by consciously using positive words to refocus on the things within one's control. For example, Cyrulnik warns that after a trauma, you need to make sure you don't talk with people who accidentally keep you in the victim mode by using depression-inducing language such as:
- You must be suffering so greatly right now!
- How very hurt and in pain you must be!
- I bet you're exhausted and depressed after all you've been through!
No, no, no! You must keep away from words like those! While on the surface they seem kind and empathetic, they're far more capable of souring the mood of a person in crisis. During tough times, you must surround yourself with a chorus of folks who chant, "You are strong! You are strong! You are strong!" creating an endless loop of support!
Knowing the subliminal power of words, Morrie and Arleah Shectman, psychotherapists who specialize in bereavement counseling, purposefully use empowering language when helping people through a trauma. Morrie says he never talks "sympathetically" with his patients because it's disempowering and keeps patients coddled in victim mode. "Too much 'sympathy talk' can keep patients stuck, reliving and examining their feelings rather than moving on," Morrie says.Here's how neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) can help you