Scattered Pieces

These are the words I held back

Going To Criticize Someone? Maybe You Should Think Twice After Reading This

A few years ago, one of my professors in my major was talking about the concept of autobiographical memories. Autobiographical memories, to make it short and simple, are like your own personal album. It has all the most significant and powerful information about you and your previous experiences. These memories are so powerful that they affect you in the present moment even if these happened a long time ago. Aside from this, they also help you create your internal sense of self which you use to identify yourself with other people.

Going back to my prof, she gave us an example of an autobiographical memory by sharing a personal story to us. Her son, who was performing in front of a large audience, had a case of stage fright which caused him to commit a mistake. After the performance, her son felt bad and could not get over it. My professor, being a psychologist, knew she had to do something because the performance could be a potential autobiographical memory which could consequently lower his self-esteem.

So what did my professor do? Sugarcoat reality for her son? Nope. She did agree with her son but she was quick to point out that there were other kids who had worse performances. The trick worked. Her son didn’t dwell too much on the issue and got over it. Whenever the topic is brought up, her son is able to remember that experience but he is able to point out that his performance wasn’t so bad. In short, the memory doesn’t affect him negatively.

When I think about that one lecture now, I realize that the words we speak are so powerful that it has the ability to change the meaning/context surrounding an issue and the mood of everyone affected. The words thrown at us can either crush us and put one’s soul to shame or it can heal us and free us from internal suffering. The impact of what is said can be felt across time. It stays with us for the rest of our lives as it is deeply embedded and etched inside our minds.

These words. They either act like a silent doctor or a silent assassin. Their work is not seen by the naked eye. The power of words can go undetected because there are times when they fail to show hints of liberation or oppression. This is the case for those who are stoical. They refuse to show or express what they are feeling. Instead, they choose to keep everything to themselves.

So what do we do now? Be all praises towards one another? The answer is no. The words we speak matter and it’s important to remember that it’s not only approval that can help us maintain a good sense of well-being. There should be room for constructive criticism (not simply criticism!) in order for us to look at areas where we could be better at which ultimately leads us to become better people. As freedom of expression is important, we should voice out our views, our stance and our opinions but only after much consideration. We should consider the T.H.I.N.K. questions before saying something.

  1. T – Is it true?: What we say should be backed up with evidence which leads other people to agree with you. Not everyone will agree with us but at the very least the argument we want to raise should be based on sound reasoning.
  2. H – Is it helpful?: What we say should positively affect others.
  3. I – Is it inspiring?: What we say should push others to become something greater than what they are right now.
  4. N – Is it necessary?: What we say should arise from something we perceive as a need. This need we see may not be considered a need for other people. However, our ideas may lead these people to look at things at another perspective.
  5. K – Is it kind?: What we say should come from good intentions.

With this framework in hand, I think a lot of people will be spared from having to deal with emotional pain but do remember that I am a psychologist in the making. Not everything I said may not be absolutely true for you since I am merely speaking from personal experiences. I recounted what I learned from my major classes and reflected on those. I’m just putting this here to share my thoughts. What I can only say with confidence is that there’s work to do for the sake of humanity.


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