In the bid to live longer and healthier lives, many of us focus most of our efforts on good nutrition to ensure that we are eating the right foods. There is nothing wrong with that. The truth is, though, that we should spend as much time watching what comes out of our mouths, because these can defile us as much, or even more, than poor nutrition. Yes, words have power.
When I first encountered this idea decades ago, my immediate reaction was, “Yeah, right!” The sceptic, know-it-all young me dismissed it as some hocus-pocus teaching that had nothing to do with reality. It was over time, as I travelled the road to becoming a corporate trainer and coach, that the truth of the maxim became apparent to me.
The seeds of the belief that words have an impact on people and environments were planted in me during a certification programme I did seventeen years ago. It showed me that words crystallise the perceptions that shape our beliefs, generate our states, drive our behaviour and ultimately, create our world. So, while we think that we are using words to describe our reality, in truth, our words are creating our reality.
Intrigued by what I had learnt, I continued my journey of discovery by delving into books on the impact of language on our reality. I discovered that various religions, philosophies and even quantum physics supported the theory. From the Bible and the Quran to Hinduism, Buddhism, the law of attraction and science, it became clear to me that our words – whether spoken inwardly or outwardly – play a key role in the cause and effect of our lives and that we need to be careful with the words we use.
The Quran exhorts believers to fear God and speak a word that is right. Another passage urges them to speak a good word or remain silent. This suggests that when we speak, we are to use language that is good and edifying at all times, or to not speak at all.
Followers of Buddhism are taught that words have the power to both destroy and heal and that when words are both true and kind, they can change the world. A great believer that speech is a powerful tool, the Buddha included right speech in his Eightfold Path teaching.
Christians are familiar with the proverb “death and life are in the power of the tongue”, implying that our words can either speak life or death. Applied to the context of our dreams and our desires, we can see how the words we speak could bring them into reality or send them to oblivion. Christians are also told that the world was created by the words spoken by God, who created what we see out of things that were not visible.
Whatever religion we choose to embrace, one of the common threads that run through them is that we need to choose our words wisely because of their impact. Quantum physics has an explanation for this and coincidentally, it ties in with the Hindu belief that words can be transformed into energy and that various media can be used to transfer it. This, then is the basis of holy water used by many religions as a conduit for blessing and protection. It is also the basis used in occultic practices of transmitting curses through objects.
Going back to quantum physics, an intriguing theory that has emerged is that physical matter doesn’t really exist, that everything is just energy in different states of vibration. This energy vibrates at an infinite number of subtle frequencies that cause it to appear as all the different creations we see in our world.
“Atoms or elementary particles themselves are not real; they form a world of potentialities or possibilities, rather than one of things or facts,” wrote Nobel Prize winning physicist Werner Heisenberg in support of this.
Based on quantum physics, it seems that life is more an energy flow than solid matter. For us, this is interesting because it implies that if we stay conscious of the energy we contain, we can make deliberate choices about how we want the frequency of that energy to be. If we want to attract better things into our lives, we need to operate at a higher, more positive frequency, which we can do by choosing to have more positive thoughts and words.
Those who believe in positive affirmations will attest to this. They use words as powerful tools to uplift their personal energy and beliefs. Sadly, many sceptics laugh this off as metaphysical mumbo-jumbo and miss out on the opportunity to elevate their own lives.
It’s not only our own words that can lift up our spirits; the words used by others can do it too. How often have you emerged from a quarrel and felt drained and tired from the harsh language used? Or spent a few hours with a chronic complainer who uses unpleasant, negative language and felt your energy level go down? I rest my case.
Some years ago, I came across the work of Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto. He performed some fascinating experiments on the effect that words have on matter in the 1990s. He took water samples from various sources, froze it and photographed the crystals under a microscope. He also exposed pure water to various influences, such as different types of music, prayer chants and words, both written and spoken and photographed the frozen water crystals.
His experiments showed that water that was pure formed beautiful, lace-like hexagonal crystals. The same thing happened with water that had been placed in glass beakers on which he had placed words like “I love you”, “peace”, “thank you”, “you’re beautiful” and other uplifting words. In other experiments, he had children repeatedly say these words in the presence of beakers of water and played chants, and again, the crystals turned out beautiful.
In contrast, when he took water from polluted sources or exposed it to negative words like “I hate you”, “fear” and “you fool”, the water froze without forming crystals. Instead of shining, symmetrical and beautiful crystals, the water yielded grey, misshapen clumps.
The most interesting of his experiments, though, was when he exposed polluted water to prayer chants as well as positive words. After 24 hours, he froze the water and guess what he got? Gleaming, beautiful hexagonal crystals. The positive energy generated by the chants and uplifting words had changed the physical structure of the water molecule!
Emoto’s experiments were detailed in a series of books, including The Hidden Messages in Water, where you can see the incredible “before” and “after“ photos of the crystals.
He took the experiments a notch further by testing the power of spoken words on cooked white rice. He placed the rice in two airtight jars, labelled one “Thank you” and the other “You fool” and left them in an elementary school classroom. For 30 days, he instructed the students to speak the words on the labels to the corresponding jars twice a day. At the end of the period, the rice in the jar that was constantly insulted had turned into a gooey black mass. The rice in the jar that was thanked remained white and fluffy as the day it was made.
Of course, Emoto had his share of detractors from the scientific community who claimed that his work was subjective and even fake. Nevertheless, the pictures from his experiments spoke to many. If the results were indeed true, it proved that words really have an impact on matter.
The increasing interest, both in science and religion, about the impact of words has affected the way I use language. I have begun to be cautious with the words I use on myself and others and chosen to eliminate harsh, ugly words from my vocabulary. I also understand the detrimental effect of sarcasm, unkind language and negative phrases and the uplifting impact of positive words, prayers and affirmations on people.
The power of positive affirmation is not a myth. There’s a phenomenon called the Illusion of Truth Effect that shows that any statement we read, see or speak regularly is perceived as more valid than one we’re exposed to only occasionally. It makes no difference whether it is true or false; what matters is how often we are exposed to it.
Research from the University of California at Santa Barbara indicates that a negative message repeated twice becomes more valid to listeners than a strong message heard only once. Repetition increases our mental validation of anything we are exposed to, which is why propaganda works so well! Consistency will trump truth every time. Thus, positive affirmations repeated daily can become accepted as the truth we believe about ourselves.
This begs the question: What are we saying over and over again to ourselves and the people around us? Are those words positive or negative? What reality are we creating with the language we use? How are our words affecting the energy around us? In our quest for health and longevity, perhaps we should start examining our language.
Sheila Singam is the founder of Human Equation, a development consultancy specialising in mindset change and innovation. She endeavours to use language to generate positive energy for others. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.