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March 20, 2023

What IS Behind Those Words?

A game of “Telephone.”

Echoes of abuse reverberate over years, decades, and centuries.

Context can explain why certain beliefs, words, and actions were acceptable at certain times. It does not excuse it; it explains it.

I know. Cold comfort.

Yet there can be some comfort in better recognition of what something abusive was when it was employed, “once upon a time.”


Sometimes, especially within certain generations, like that of our grandparents, there can simply be the decree of a one-word name or adjective.

We can get called “Stupid.” We can get called “Dummy,” “Dope,” or “Idiot.” The name-calling is a way in which it is decided who and what we are, without any further information or understanding.

For the people who call us such things as “Stupid,” it can be a tidy way of solving a problem. “Stupid.” That’s it. That’s enough.

No need to probe any further.

It serves a dysfunctional system, like an abusive family, best if we are called “Stupid.” There’s no need to change, correct, or even look at behavior that is destructive.

“You’re not good enough.”

Maybe we have experienced some evolution with the people in our lives who respond to who we are.

Maybe we now are dealing more directly with our family of origin; it is about our parents’ view of us now.

Maybe we aren’t name-called now. But we are still judged harshly.

“You’re not good enough” is our reality. It is decided about us. It’s a conditional performance issue now. It’s about earning love, acceptance, approval, and value. And there are high, mostly impossible, standards set for us, standards that can change at any given time.

We aren’t notified of those changes. We expend our energy of trying to keep up.

And we never can.

“I love you.”

After surviving many intergenerational messages of disrespect and harmful abuse, many of us have often reached the conclusion we need therapy.

And then, through the deep work of this therapy, we are introduced to concepts of “mirror work,” “re-parenting” and “the inner child.”

“I love you” is often the product of learning these tools and coping strategies.

That statement comes as we discover who we are, in our uniqueness, strengths, and weaknesses. Many times, the things that have gotten us abused, berated, and name-called were the exact things that are valuable and celebrated by others who appreciate us.

It takes time. It’s imperfect.

But accepting and loving ourselves can become the hard-fought, hard-won reality, extinguishing the other harmful and inaccurate statements others have spoken over us.

Is that true?

We need to start asking those three words, as a challenge to anything we hear. Keeping in mind other peoples’ pain, dysfunction, ignorance, and ulterior motives for disempowering us can help us put things in proper perspective.

Were we “Stupid?”

Or was it a way for someone to keep us quiet?

Were we “not good enough?”

Or was it a strategy for a certain adult in our lives to maintain a false sense of superiority?

Is that true?

When it comes to negative names or descriptions others have spoken about who we are, we’ll usually discover the answer to that question is “no.”

Copyright © 2023 by Sheryle Cruse


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