Psychiatrist Proposes Ban on ‘Hurtful’ Words Like Lazy, Boring, and Spoiled

circa 1956: A man ignoring his wife with the help of ear plugs. (Photo by Jacobsen /Three Lions/Getty Images)
Jacobsen /Three Lions/Getty

A leading psychiatrist has identified six words people should not use, because they are “accompanied by feelings of moral judgment, hatred and utter rejection,” Business Insider revealed Monday.

In 1972, comedian George Carlin delivered a monologue titled “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” that rocketed him to celebrity, but the self-censorship proposed for the “six hurtful words you should stop using” have nothing to do with Carlin’s naughty list.

They are rather “harmful, negative labels to describe ourselves and others,” according to psychiatrist Grant Hilary Brenner, and they come from “toxic places.”

“Words like selfish, stupid, spoiled, and lazy” can be more damaging than we realize, the article warns.

“These are dividing words, misunderstanding concepts, rather than language which joins and deepens mutuality and self-relationship,” Brenner asserts, and their use constitutes “an act of linguistic violence.”

The word “lazy,” for instance, “suggests there’s something fundamentally wrong with you if you can’t work hard,” Brenner writes, while “the answer may simply be to give yourself smaller goals.”

Other labels that should be removed from our vocabulary are “bored,” “hypocrite,” and “spoiled,” Brenner suggests. Being spoiled “is actually the result of a complex relationship process, whether that dynamic plays out internally in self-labeling, or externally with close others,” Brenner said.

Another off-limits word is “stupid,” which often comes from a feeling of vulnerability when being observed and a lack of self-forgiveness when making a mistake, he said.

The sixth bad word — “selfish” — often has roots in childhood, said Brenner, and can stem from parents calling us selfish when our needs were inconvenient or difficult.

“When we do this with ourselves, labeling ourselves as selfish when we have legitimate needs, we do violence against ourselves and undermine both healthy self-care behaviors as well as reinforcing a sense of being a bad person,” he said.

“When we notice we are using these labels, or hearing them used, it’s a good time to slow down, hit the emotional pause button, and get real, real curious,” he said.

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