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Removing violence from our language

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

February 15, 2021

On a call with students from UNC Chapel Hill, she asked if I would mind if she were to shoot me an email with any follow up questions. I smiled and responded that if she were to send me one (rather than shoot), I would be happy to reply.

Words have meaning and power. They also carry energy. They have a somatic impact on our bodies to expand or contract or rest. I disagree with the statement, “it’s not what you say it's how you say it”. To me, it is both what you say AND how you say it.

For a few years now, I have been leaning into and practicing demilitarizing my language. It became a curiosity as I noticed the impact on my body of violent militarized language woven into our everyday well meaning conversations — words like target and shoot.

I learned to replace these terms with words whose impact on my body felt in alignment with my intentions. Not only were my thoughts more deeply and accurately expressed but they were in somatic alignment. My body did not need to constrict but rather could expand and invite others into expansion as well. This resonance also offered rest to my body rather than unintended innervation of my nervous system.

Perhaps, I feel it because I am an empath. Just because we aren’t aware that harm is being done, doesn’t mean that it is not. Colonized mind is very clever. It’s insipid in an insidious way and it is in our language.

Without intervention, how could it be any other way?
Here is an offering to see if it has any relevance for you. Read these sentences out loud to yourself. Notice how your body responds.
Let’s take a stab at this grant.
Let’s see what progress we can make….

Shoot me a text.
Send me a text.
Who are we targeting with this work?
Who do we want to engage in this work?
What are the bullet points we want to make?
What are the messages we want to convey?
We are gonna shoot for mid May.
We have set an intention or commitment to complete by mid may.
Shooting video or footage
Hitting record
We are slamming it!
Worth a shot
You kill me with that…

What is the cost of this to our bodies? Is there a remedy in choosing language that calms, heals, soothes our bodies? Or at least doesn’t cause a contraction. How does it impact the containers we are building to hold the work of social justice? Of movement when we use such language? What is the energy that carries between us? Between our bodies? And what language can we CREATE to aid in our own liberation?

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