There’s been a lot of thinking lately about words, and what things spoken can do to have power for me. Partially because I’ve been having a lot of internal struggles, and also because I just sometimes reflect on my childhood and just how it affects me now–it’s my personal wake-up check and self-reflection to always consider what I do, how I act, and just how I’ve gotten to a point in my practice or beliefs. Sometimes they are easy reflections, other times it is far more difficult. I have always been pretty deep into thinking (not to say I’ve always been the most perceptive of people…I can be downright obtuse at times); which of course leads to lots of time introspecting on just how I got to here.
And generally I really try to be vague about this topic here; because I don’t like to raise problems or stir the still waters. But sometimes things come up and I really do need to talk about it. I’m allowed my thoughts on the subject, after all, even if my sibling and others might not agree with how I see such things. But this is for sure something where my childhood has a huge impact on how I feel about the topic.
I’m putting read more, because I’m going to talk about emotional and verbal abuse (in a kind of abstract – there’s no graphic details) in my childhood, and how it’s affected my beliefs and understanding of words. So feel free to skip if you don’t want to read about that.
I grew up with two vastly different households. My mom was loving, always accepting, and did absolutely everything that she could to keep me safe, love me, support me and defend me. This is not to say my mother was perfect–she was not a perfect parent. She had faults, but I know that the things she did wrong when I was growing up, she would change in a heartbeat if she could go back and redo it. For that I respect her, and I feel that she really did learn a lot over the years and working through all the issues that come from parenting/divorce. But after my parents divorced, well family court + rules there made it difficult for my mom. She could do all she could for me at her house, so long as I was within her house and her rules–but not when I was at my dad’s.
That was hell. My father and his then-wife were horrifically abusive; never physical, but the emotional and verbal abuse were extreme. I had to deal with an awful experience in one house that my mom was legally powerless to protect me from. The family courts where I grew up did nothing to protect me + sibling, not that I ever expected much; after all, I was never physically touched. I still have emotional scars and trouble from how this all went down. Truthfully, I have major issues that I work on in therapy, by myself, and in talking stuff over with my family. But it boils down to the fact that I was raised in a substantially abusive and dysfunctional family environment.
Because of this dichotomy I have a real problem with words and speech. I have visceral reactions to certain words and speech that cause quite a bit of trouble. I know I can trust certain people to speak truly, kindly and politely to me; even if they might have criticism of me, or disagree with me, they will be respectful and I feel safe in speaking with them and conversation. Other people though, I have a deep-seated reaction. I don’t trust words from most people. I really do not do well with certain things.
There is a certain name (my dad’s now ex-wife’s name) that absolutely paralyzes me to this day. I have a mini freeze whenever I have to interact with someone with that same name. I can interact when needed, but I really do not do well when faced with people with this name–which is unfortunate, and something I’ve worked long and hard on. I used to have panic attacks if I had to deal with anyone using this name; so I’ve come a long way. It’s an ongoing process though. I do not like this name, and admittedly I have a rather sharp dislike of people with the name, because of the psycho I had to deal with growing up.
Then words themselves. For example “we need to have a talk” or “we need to talk” — those are enough to literally freeze my blood. I panic, I go white, I loose feeling in my fingertips to hear those two phrases. They still stop me hard in my tracks, enough that I legitimately lose myself. It’s the type of phrase that stops everything around me from being processed. That is not exactly a terrifying phrase on its own, but for me that phrase was the cue that I was about to go through a hellacious sentence of verbal and emotional abuse from my father and his then-wife. For a good 8-9 years that phrase was literally my warning that I was going to end up in for a world of abuse and hurt. It has been…oh gods, nearly 7 years since I last heard that phrase from my father or his wife; and yet it still is one phrase that will immediately send me over the edge into full-blown panic.
I work through my issues with words and language when I am in counseling, but I can admit that this is one phrase I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully get over. It is the type of thing that I am going to have to work a lifetime on, and I suspect I will never be able to hear that phrase without actively flinching. It used to be a pretty common thing to say in the family, before all the emotional/verbal abuse went down with my one house growing up. The rest of my family has been good about working with me. They don’t use that phrase anymore, which I am very grateful for. I know that they understand why that phrase is so hard for me, and I do appreciate working with me there.
This is not to say that my family is just coddling me with no push. My family talks like normal, interacts with me like normal–treat me like a normal person. Which is much appreciated. It helps me feel normal and normalize all my reactions and knowing what is normal to do and to react. One phrase is a good one to avoid, but otherwise, my family all just treat me like normal, which is the most helpful thing for me in coping with what I went through.
All of this just to explain that I am sensitive and highly aware of the power of words. It took me years after moving out at 18 to really begin to understand that I was abused. Because the way the courts treat it, the way that most people treat it–I was never touched, so I was never abused. But it took me getting out, being on my own in Germany for a year and coming to terms with my life and what had happened to me growing up…all that to make me realize that I was abused. Yes others might have had it worse throughout history, but it not being “that bad” (to use what some people have explained my situation as) does not invalidate the fact that I grew up in an abusive household.
So once I began to realize all that, and was fully on my own my senior year of college, I really began to analyze how my childhood + first two years of college and the relationships I had with my father and his wife really affected me. Also – a year across the world from everything really opened my eyes. I mean…being in Germany and being told that I was the legitimate and sole root of all my family’s (dad + his wife + my sibling) problems was eye-opening for me. It really woke me up and was the first understanding for me that things were not right in my father’s household. That was a good thing for me–because it made me grow up and really understand what I was dealing with.
All of that has made me more conscious of words, phrases, speech and just what they mean. I might perhaps over-analyze, which is something I just have to continue to work on. But I feel more careful than perhaps I might have been without the fun I had to deal with.
In work and magic, in witchcraft and in my practice, I always did believe that words were powerful. But now I’ve come to the realization that for me words are full intent. And words are deliberately chosen. Even if someone wants to claim they were carelessly chosen, I don’t see that in most cases. “Careless” is, in my experience, 85% actual thought but played off as such to avoid really dealing with what was chosen. There are deliberate choices made, even if it’s just the thoughts behind the words spoken. In my experience, there is nothing carelessly spoken without either the implication clear or the obvious thought behind the words.
Of course, I acknowledge my own past history makes me overly suspicious and prone to reading things into speech that may not be the intention of the speaker. Which is why I say I am careful to analyze what people say to me, and also what the real intention might be. I know that there are careless things said–and that my negative and fatalistic viewpoint on the motivations behind “careless” speech are direct result of my father’s households abusive use of language, rhetoric…and justification of “careless” things said to me or others. So my interaction with language is admittedly skewed. I appreciate it, and actively work to reset my mind frame and really focus on taking care of myself and changing my view of speech.
In practice, I am cautious. Admittedly a huge part of my work, knowledge and practices are devoted to careful understanding of words, speech and rhetoric. Then on top of that, I work hard to make my own intentions clear in my writing, speaking or work with deities, spirits and ancestors. It is difficult at times for me, because it’s so skewed on my perceptions that I will admittedly edit, dismantle, rewrite and recreate dozens of times before I am comfortable to actually use anything with words or speech. It’s also a symptom of my OCD, no doubt exacerbated by past situations, that I have to have something perfect or near-so before I feel comfortable to use it and actually work with it. And I can admit that my bipolar does not make this any easier, because if I am hypo-manic I am absolutely nervous, agitated and low-key hyped up to the point where I will frenzy-like continue modifying, fixing, rewriting and playing with speech and words until I am well past the point of what would be considered reasonable work by any normal practitioner.
My natural academic and perfectionist tendencies were long exacerbated by the family situation I grew up in. And that has spread into my practice. I do not use a prayer or call to the gods without massively proofing, editing and considering every single word I use. I don’t even consider doing a spell with words or speech without the same process. Things that require no speech or words are easier, because I feel like I can pour feelings into work without the need for language, which can be restrictive. It is still difficult for me, because I worry about the intentions behind things; but this is easier than anything with physical language.
This is also why I will never (at least as of how I currently am and currently feel) post anything written/spoken that I actually use. I don’t feel they are perfect enough, or proper enough, to share. I might eventually force myself to use them, because I have to control my mental disorders with rigid discipline. And I also have to work to overcome the awful environment my father and his wife put me into. For me to overcome, it means after a certain point (I give myself usually a week on any given project — even if I only work on the particular project for 30 minutes in that 1 week, no matter what) I force myself to put it aside and either use it or scrap it completely to the “idea” pile for consideration later on some other task. It’s grueling to do this at times, because it is difficult to go against my internal wiring and how I got along for so long…but if I do it, there is improvement for myself. It is slow and tedious, but it is progress.
The funny thing though is that I write this blog, for all my innate trouble with words and thoughts behind them. I know it seems counter-intuitive–actually, when I started this blog back in 2012, I never thought I would actually keep it up; because that was back when I was in Germany and I knew I was struggling with how I had to come to terms with my raising and begin to grow behind it. I’m actually proud that I’ve managed to work on myself enough over the last 5 years to get to a point where even if it just my blog with my thoughts, pieces and information-sharing, I am able to put words down and let them sit out there. I may not always like 100% how I wrote something; and I have written before where I did not fully word things how I would want to. But I let it go, and it has become easier for me with each passing blog entry I write.
I’m just working on continuing to become more confident, less over-analytical, and more open with words and speech, powerful tools, in my practice, my work, and my interaction with spirits, gods and ancestors. It’s been a slow process, but the progress exists, so I just have to continue on.∗