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Since the violence in Tucson, I’ve been thinking about the impact of my word choices and trying to be mindful of the subtle language of violence that creeps into the words I use every day. Perhaps you’ve noticed this too?
There are some phrases we say out loud that our U.S. society embraces, not as literal speech, but as impassioned hyperbole:
I’d kill for a cup of coffee . . . Just shoot me . . . We’ve got to punch though this problem . . . Just keep pounding away . . . Hit it again . . . I’m going to kill ‘em when he/she gets in.
Or sometimes the language is internal, and as such, in the silence of our minds, it can be harsher, more profane and more abusive:
What an idiot . . . How stupid can I be? . . . I hate myself . . . What a loser . . . I should just drop dead . . . $#@%! me . . .  Kill me.
All of these violent language actions, to ourselves and to others, repeats over and over each day. There must be a cost, an impact on our psyches? Over time, I imagine that it desensitizes us to violent language to the point where we dismiss it, to the point where we don’t even hear it, to the point where we think nothing of a talking head on television calling for physical violence against a political opponent,  or we think nothing when we hear a parent threaten violence on an infant or a human threaten violence to an animal.
And so we think nothing of this language when it occurs inside our head. It seems natural to let this internal abuse occur. After all, it’s been happening for so long. And internally, as some of us hear the voice in our heads repeat the negative and violent thoughts over and over again, some part of us must respond. It could be that my response is to diminish my own self worth, to render myself an impotent channel-surfing being until I emerge from the haze; or it can mean that I begin to redirect that internal language outward on to others.
A journal is a wonderful place to explore this language, to begin to notice the word choices we use and consider their impact our lives and on the lives of those around us. It’s a safe surface to let all the words–even the ones I chose not to list in this post–spill out so that they can be observed from a distance.

Ready to do something? Try writing about it.

Consider your personal language of violence. Take an inventory of the violent words you use during the course of a day. Take an inventory of the words you say silently to yourself. What do you notice about each list? Are there patterns?
Start writing with this sentence stem: The words I choose….

Scott Youmans is an experienced facilitator with an MA in Transformative Language Arts from Goddard College. He’s a computer programmer, a dedicated partner, and a New Warrior. He lives in Philadelphia. Follow Scott Youmans at his ‘This Energetic Man’ blog.

– is a deeply personal issue that everyone decides for himself. Sometimes the price is high, sometimes low. But this is not very important for life. Life is an interesting thing. And the price on Viagra – too.