When a child has a tantrum and starts hitting, throwing things and/or breaking anything in sight, a parent is asked (or advised) to say to the child “Use your words.”
Words convey ideas better than violence, of course. But think of the ways ordinary conversation uses violent images:
“He really walloped that ball.”
“It’s great stuff. It just kills.”
Losing an argument, debate or game isn’t just losing any more — it’s “taking a beating” or “getting walloped.”
The more violence affects, or infects, one’s vocabulary, the less opportunity exists for calming down.
“I’m very angry” becomes “I could kill someone.”
Taking the former seriously results in getting out of that person’s way. Taking the latter seriously might lead someone to say “Wanna buy a gun?”
So “use your words,” even when you’re talking only to yourself.
If you’re offended, another way to say that is that you’re hurt. Where does it hurt? Go from “I could kill him for that” to “That makes me sick in my guts.”
Stop thinking of what you could do because of you feel and figure out words for the feeling. Does your stomach feel unsteady, or is it tied in knots? Is your neck tense? Does your head pound?
How can you attack someone — even verbally — when you feel that rotten? Don’t think of making someone else feel worse — think of making yourself feel better.
When you’re angry, think about a song or poem that makes you feel better when you feel sick or just low. Mine is an old Scottish song, “Keep Right on to the End of the Road,” which advises “Though the day be long, let your heart be strong; keep right on ’round the bend.”
Hang onto whatever restores your calm and helps you use calmer, kinder words.
Then, when you really are angry, there will be words and expressions left to use and fewer people (even you) will get hurt.
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