Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Power of Words

Number 3, our 1 year old, looked up at me, her eyebrows arched in shock and sadness, then she curled up into a ball and sobbed.
We'd been joking around about the current political farce, excuse me, 'election season', and I'd said something to the effect of "...pssht kissing babies... No More Kissing Babies..."  Number 3 had been playing happily at my feet throughout the conversation, and also, unbeknownst to me: listening.

I tried to tell her that I was talking about something else, and that I hadn't meant it with regard to her.  She was inconsolable.  Finally, I picked her up, and gave her a smooch, and said, "See babies still get smooches!"  She immediately calmed down, climbed off my lap, and went back to playing.  

For months I've known she understands almost all of what we say on a day to day basis.  A few weeks after she started to walk, I handed her a piece of paper towel, and asked her to put it in the compost bag in the kitchen under the sink.  Off she went, and did exactly that.  I knew she understood words, but I hadn't realized they could be so real for her.  To her, the phrase I'd uttered meant she was never going to get another smooch again.  The words created a reality for her, and it took a demonstration of an actual other reality to undo their effect.

Coincidentally, I've been on a 'positive power of words' reading spree lately, and No. 3 lent a perfect example to illustrate the point made by the books I've been reading.  If you're interested in what all the hubbub's about, here are some of the books I've sampled:

How To Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie
You might know this author from How to Win Friends, and Influence People.  This tract similarly lays out techniques based on the author's experience, the experience of students who attended his seminars, and the experience of successful executives the author interviewed.  These techniques include living life one day at a time; reflective writing to solve problems; and the importance of springing into action rather than dwelling on a problem.  Portions of the book may be off-putting if religion isn't your thing.  The power of positive thinking discussions in the book tend to reiterate the author's opinion that positive thinking is equivalent to prayer.  Personally, I found the examples drawn form many faiths, including agnosticism to be refreshing in their inclusiveness.

Illusions by Richard Bach
This was my first introduction to the power of positive thinking genre as a kid.  You might recognize Richard Bach as the author of Johnathon Livingston Seagull.  Illusions is a similar fable with a similar moral: You'll become what you believe you will.  The world at large, however, (whether it's a flock of allegorical seagulls, or human society), may not be ready for that kind of learning yet.  The prose is simple, and beautifully laid out.  The book follows a cynical messiah who leads the main character--a barnstorming pilot traveling the country selling rides in his biplane--on a journey of self-discovery.  The messiah character teaches both through parables and real-life examples.  There are heavy doses of the theme, "as you believe, the universe will oblige," throughout.  This book may not be for some folks as it liberally treats religion as philosophy, and vice versa.  Spoiler alert: while the book is certainly accessible to younger kids, the ending is a bit shocking.  

The Instant Millionaire by Mark Fisher
This is my most recent read.  It tells the tale of a young man whose eccentric uncle sends him to an equally eccentric old millionaire for advice.  It would make for a nice play because the entire book takes place in three settings in and around the millionaire's house.  The simple sentences in the book are beautifully written, and have an emotionally impact.  The millionaire, much like the Messiah character in Illusions, teaches about the power of words and thoughts by example.  He eschews doubt and fear; and encourages setting specific written goals and internalizing them by speaking them aloud daily.  If you're a fan of affirmations, the millionaires advice runs in that direction.

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