Control: When words control you

Means everybody else can control you.

When words control you, everybody else can control you.

Nobody loves the idea of being watched by strangers in strange places around the clock, yet no matter what we do — pay with e-money, use the computer, click the internet, win a race, break a leg — every step we take, every vow we break, somebody is watching us.

Privacy is an artifact of the past. Just because we are paranoiacs doesn’t mean it is an illusion, as many people in many countries’ prisons only know too well.


We tend to associate the exercise of control with ourselves, other people, organizations, governments, climate, weather, or external circumstances which everybody knows, can change over time. So what is Bruce Lee talking about? Does it mean that on top of all that, you can be controlled by words?

Spot on.

However, words controlling you is not a question of if. Because what words can do to others, they can do to you, and if you respond to words like others respond, they probably are doing it now.

Words controlling you is a question of when. That means words only control you when you make the common mistake people make with words.

The common mistake people make

The common mistake word-users make is:

  • Expecting words to make sense.
  • Expecting words to have meaning.


Words lack the sensory organs for sense-making. The sensational one, the one with the senses, is you. No word can know for you what you feel about it. Some people respond to words like elevators respond to buttons pressed while others have enough sense to ignore them without thinking twice.


Words don’t have any pockets to carry meaning in. I’m not one to make facts or opinions. The one who cannot live with meaninglessness is you.

“To have a meaningful life, you have to do something meaningful. Meaning doesn’t happen on autopilot.” – Hugh Macleod

That explains why life, for example, means very different things to different people at different times in their lives.

Sense-making is easy. You can feel good or bad about a word anytime. People do it every day. In stark contrast to that, meaning takes work.

Meaning takes work

The meaning of words takes work and somebody better do it, or else we’d be stranded in a world of meaninglessness.

If that is not you, then there are people out there motivated to do it for you. But that’s not all. The best is yet to come: The meaning-makers are eager to do it for you — for free. With millions of words out there, that is a mountain of work by any standard.

Why would anyone in their right mind want do the work for you, for free? The answer, my friend, is in the headline:

“When words control you, everybody else can control you.”

PS. To understand meaning second to none, have your own, and have it work for you, I recommend Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.

Pin It on Pinterest