Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me?
Junkie. Jakey. Alkie Pisshead. At the moment, the Scottish Government have a campaign to educate these words out of our vocabulary. They argue that such language dehumanises. And they are right.
I wrote a wee piece some time ago about the Rumpelstiltskin Principle. At it's simplest, we become the stories we tell ourselves. So what happens if we are constantly told we are a 'junkie'? What does it mean to us?
Think of how you feel when someone says Junkie. What does it conjure? Let me be honest, it's a word I have and do use. Usually in anger. I've had a drug dealer live in my building and had to physically throw her customers out. I live in a small town with a significant drug problem. Our local chemist supplies their methadone. Pass by in the morning and you can see them gathering outside.
For me, I see the feckless wrecks of humanity. Junkie conjures contempt. Junkie robs any trace of sympathy or empathy.
If it does that to me, what does it do to those who hear it directed at them all day long?
Imagine every day you are told you are ill. You have major anxiety. You are depressed. You are bipolar. You are mad.
Imagine you start believing it? Will your behaviour alter? Will you change? Everyone is telling you that this is your truth?
Imagine years of every voice that matters to you telling you how useless you are? Too weird. Too fucked up. How long before you believe that tale?
That is the power of words. The power to shape and change our reality.