ozarque (ozarque) wrote,
ozarque
ozarque

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Linguistics; hostile language...

While I was struggling with the consequences of my November/December Verbal Self-Defense Newsletter being misidentified as spam, I test-posted a section of the newsletter [on the topic of hostility research] at
http://ozarque.livejournal.com/463940.html . And milwaukeesfs commented:

"This raises an interesting question: is hostile language a cause or a symptom? Certainly, being the receiver of hostile language tends to inspire hostile feelings in the recipient. However, would you suggest that not having access to hostile language forms would tend to defuse the Type A people's anger and mistrust? And what about people who imagine retorts but don't dare utter them (to a superior, etc.). They have the disadvantage of both formulating hostile messages and the frustration of not venting them, which one would think must be doubly bad for the health."

The answer to the question -- in my opinion -- is that hostile language is both. Both a cause and a symptom.

[The metaprinciple is: Anything you feed will grow.]

Exposure to hostile language -- whatever its source -- causes negative feelings that are very likely to make you also feel hostile; that's the standard emotional reaction in our culture. When that happens, one or more of these outcomes usually follows...


1. You express your hostility with hostile language of your own, directed at the person who first spoke in a hostile manner [which exposes you, your target, and any innocent bystanders who can't leave the scene to your hostile language].

2. Because for some reason you don't dare respond directly to the original hostile language, you hang on to your hostile feelings until you have a chance to be hostile at somebody else -- somebody other than the person who started the sequence. And then you express your hostility with hostile language of your own, with the same consequences as for #1.

3. Because for some reason you don't dare respond directly to the original hostile language, you smother your hostile feelings at the time -- and instead of expressing them in hostile language of your own to someone else, you turn that hostility on yourself and express it in hostile self-talk. You turn it into a tape of the original hostile language that you play over and over in your head, accompanied by this kind of self-harrasssment: "WHY didn't I say [X]? How could I have just STOOD there like a lump and let that creep get away with SAYING all that stuff??! No WONder people are always walking all over me! How could I be so STUPid? How can I BE such a SPINEless WUSS?" Or accompanied by your detailed rehearsal of the hostile language that you're going to respond with the next time somebody comes at you that way. Or both.


All three of these outcomes are dangerous to your health and your wellbeing, and they set up a toxic loop. Hostile language makes people feel hostile, which is bad for them; hostile language makes people feel hostile, which usually leads to more hostile language, which is bad for them; the negative health consequences of all this make people feel miserable and hostile, which is bad for them. It goes around and around and around.
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