Sticks and stones may break my bones …

As children, most of us were familiar with the sing-song, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

As children, most of us were familiar with the sing-song, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

by Irene Conlan — 

As children, most of us were familiar with the sing-song, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” At that time, we were unaware of just how untrue that little ditty was. We were unaware of the deep and long-lasting wounds we can receive from and inflict with words.

Parents, teachers and other significant adults in a child’s life often are unaware of how harmful their words can be. They mistakenly believe it’s merely a matter of discipline, changing behavior or motivating a child. While children are particularly vulnerable, you do not have to be a child to be wounded by words.

“What’s the matter with you?” is a question that implies that something is wrong with you. It can send the mind into a spin, trying to find the things that are wrong — something is wrong with me, let me count the ways.

“If you keep that up, you will never amount to anything,” is another word-gift that keeps on giving. Some other choice phrases and questions are: “Why can’t you be smart like your sister?” “You must be taking ugly pills.” “You need to keep your mouth shut so people don’t know how stupid you are,” and a thousand other variations on this theme.

These types of statements are like twigs in a river that get caught on the bank and soon create a dam that blocks the flow of water. These phrases get caught in the mind. Then, every negative word gets stuck there, eventually blocking the mind’s ability to see and accept the positive. If what we’ve heard is too harsh or sustained for too long, it can kill our zest for life.

For example, a mother told her unruly son to stand still and not speak until she gave him permission. In her busyness, she forgot to tell her 5-year-old that he could speak again. Later, neither of them understood why he developed a serious stuttering problem.

A father told his son repeatedly that he was no good at baseball; as a result, all of that young man’s batting talent went down the drain. His dream of baseball was ruined and he never had another dream as big or that motivated him as much. Today, he is still searching for something he can wrap his dreams around.

A husband had the habit of sending little verbal barbs to his wife about her size, her intelligence, her way of speaking, the way she handled the children, the way she walked, etc. But, he couldn’t understand why she became totally unresponsive to him. (It was, of course, all her fault.) These careless — or not so careless — words sometimes create blocks so big and so wide that self-esteem cannot get around them, just like the water cannot flow around a dam in the river.

These thoughts and their resulting beliefs and emotions are stored subconsciously. The good news is that, like unblocking the dam in the river, these blocks can be released. One wonderful tool for releasing them is hypnosis.

Hypnosis allows one to work in the subconscious mind, the storehouse for emotions, habits, thoughts and these dammed-up blocks that limit or impede our road to success. Removing them allows growth, freedom, self-realization and a renewed zest for life.

Perhaps the saying should be changed to, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but hurtful words can harm me.” Maybe the saying should be replaced by the other sing-song children use, “I’m rubber and you are glue. Whatever you say about me bounces back and sticks onto you.”

I think you are beautiful and, oh, so very smart!


Irene Conlan has a masters degree in nursing and is a certified hypnotherapist and a certified past life regression therapist. or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 1, February/March 2006.

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