Thursday, May 15, 2008
The Power of Words
By Claudia Ricci
OK, try this. Try closing your eyes and saying these words:
"emerald green ocean waves, splashing on the sand, white and frothy glittering in the sun."
Nice mind picture, huh?
There is immense power in words. Whether we hear them as spoken or written messages, words create new states of mind.
What kinds of things do we say to friends and family? What statements or casual comments are empowering, encouraging, supportive, postive and life-giving? What outbursts come from another space, a place of jealousy or envy or anger or resentment?
If you haven't seen the movie, "What The Bleep Do We Know?" rent it. It's quirky, and quite extraordinary in the way it opens up a whole new view of that thing we call reality. Each time I watch it, I marvel at the statements made by the physicists and other scientists who are interviewed about quantum mechanics and the puzzling nature of sub-atomic particles. All of these scientists, echoing Einstein, end up saying in one way or another that nothing is fixed until the mind turns its observing consciousness on the matter. In other words, the mind has enormous power; in effect, we create reality by how we think about it. And how we speak of it. What we say "matters," literally. What we say -- I love you, I hate you, you are beautiful, you are stupid -- ends up in someone else's mind, and creates a real emotion. A situation, if you will.
One of the more fascinating features of the Bleep movie is the work of Masaru Emoto, a Japanese researcher who has spent years studying the effects of spoken words on frozen water crystals. The work is not without its critics and controversy. But even if you "read" Emoto's work as a metaphor, and gaze at his lovely frozen water crystals as no more than simply illustrations of an idea, rather than an expression of so-called "scientific reality," they are something to see.
His contention is that if spoken words or human thoughts are directed at water before it freezes, then the crystals that result will display characteristic patterns. These patterns will be ugly if the words/thoughts are negative, and beautiful if the words/thoughts are positive and life-affirming. He claims to have experimented using prayer, and written words attached to water-filled containers. He has published many volumes under the name, Messages From Water. Each volume displays the crystals and the emotions/thoughts that produced them.
Maybe. But maybe not.
According to Wikipedia, "Commentators have criticized Emoto for insufficient experimental controls, and for not sharing enough details of his approach with the scientific community.  In addition, Emoto has been criticized for designing his experiments in ways that leave them open to human error influencing his findings. 
In the day-to-day work of his group, the creativity of the photographers rather than the rigor of the experiment is an explicit policy of Emoto. Emoto freely acknowledges that he is not a scientist, and that photographers are instructed to select the most pleasing photographs."
In 2006, Emoto published a paper together with Dean Radin and others in the peer-reviewed Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, in which they claim to have proven in a double blind test that approximately 2000 people in Tokyo could increase the aesthetic appeal of water stored in a room in California, compared to water in another room, solely through their positive intentions."
So. Maybe you are a skeptic about the water crystal business.
But I bet if you think about it, you would agree how incredibly powerful words are. Think back to a teacher or some other authority figure who praised you. Or one who made you feel dumb and inadequate.
I recall a neighbor of my early childhood in rural Connecticut. The woman's name was Mrs. Harrigan. Playing at her house one day, I snatched a doll away from my sister in her presence. Mrs. Harrigan turned to me and told me that I was "nasty."
I was shocked. I have remembered that statement for half a century. I wasn't even sure what "nasty" meant, but I knew, from the dark fury in her eyes, that it wasn't nice.
Later that day, I told my big brother Rick, who was two years my senior, what she had said. Protectively, he told me what he would do. That afternoon, we lay on the lawn side by side, our faces trained on Mrs. Harrigan's backyard. At the top of his lungs, brother Rick called out these words, over and over again:
"Mrs. Harrigan's nasty! Mrs. Harrigan's nasty!" The words sailed out, and carried some of the sting back in her direction. (I honestly don't remember whether we got in trouble. I've screened all that part out.)
What we say to each other, and just as importantly, what we say to ourselves, day after day, creates a kind of story. A narrative of who we are. If somebody says we are fat, that usually gets wedged into our brain, with pictures.
So today, be nice to yourself. Think something beautiful about who you are and what you are capable of doing. And find something terrific and encouraging to say to somebody else. Make it very particular to that person. Make it something you know that person will appreciate.
Make that person's day
glitter, like emerald green ocean water,
the waves splashing on the sand
white and frothy, in the sun.