I have been contemplating the meaning of insult and it seems to be a rich subjcet. To insult somebody basically means to make a derogatory remark, accidentally of with the full intention to hit the person’s sense of integrity.
There are many forms of insult, but the central question is – what is it that gets insulted ?
A cruel remark can hit you right in the pit of your stomach. You can actually feel it and there is a feeling of nausea that goes along with it. It shatters your composure and you feel emotions rising. The reaction to an insult can be two-fold – either we hit back or we withdraw in defeat and grief, or in a combination of the two. Either way, there is a massive defensive reaction based on – words.
Words are energy and they carry the vibration of the intent. When they are directed towards another person in an intent to hurt, they will accomplish it. They will weaken the protective layers around us and hit right in the heart.
Insults are meant to psychologically weaken the other person. I can use abusive language or indirect allusions – the effect will be the same, the darts of my words of malice will pierce through the protective layers of the other person’s defense system and hit right where it hurts – the weak spots of the ego.
Egos hate to be seen weak and they hate even more to feel vulnerable. An insult will always contain a message that makes the person on the receiving end feel somehow at fault for being dumber, weaker, less appreciated or not getting approval. To use an insult is to turn words into sharp weapons.
However, the interesting thing with insults is that it takes a giver and a receiver. That being said, given that insults are just statements and as such neutral, the most important factor is the cognition of an insult on the receiving end. If I say to someone ” I think you are a moron”, what happens ? It is words and there is a meaning associated with the words. So can anyone be hit by words that may or may not portray the opinion or judgement of another person, or does it take something else.
Let us assume, someone is trying to offend us in a foreign language that we do not understand and they are using a body language that we cannot read either. Would it be possible for us to be insulted at all ? Or would we just shrug the shoulders while abusive language is used ? Take in comparison a message of kindness, like smiling or a gentle open gaze – that we would understand perfectly well, even without words. But an insult requires us actually to translate a statement that has been made into a concept and to put ourselves in relation to that.
An insult that reaches the receiver in the intended scope, requires a step on the side of the receiver – hearing the words and taking them personal. Taking something personal means to interpret the way the attacker is seeing us and it also requires us to believe in a consequence. Person X is seeing me as “weak, dumb, stupid, incapable” and it means they assault my sense of integrity with that opinion. It means that I will have to be on guard and no longer trust that person for not doing it again. It also means that if this person is right, I am screwed.
If always knew that an insult is just an opinion based on personal interpretation of the world around us, would it be useful as a weapon ? It would be a laugh, because how can someone else’s opinion of myself hurt me ? If the other person is using abusive language, I need to ask myself what is the reason behind it and do I need to stay and listen to it. I always have to choice to not take words personally, but open up to the tirade and understand why the other person feels they need to use words and language to humiliate me.
And here we have the link. Humiliation is the act of using insult ( and other derogatory means) to disempower someone. Maybe this person is acting differently or in some other way threatening the illusion of personal and tribal security, so they must be stopped at all means. On the other hand a person may be perceived as threatening to the status quo and using insult – or humiliation – are the means of silencing them.
Lastly, insult can be completely accidental. I can say something, but the words may be translated in a different context or meaning. This is actually another good way of showing that the activity of turning words or a statement into an offence is entirely with the receiver.
So that shows us that the process of “insult” depends primarily on the receiver. I will always have a choice of taking the words of someone personally or just let them go right through me, like in a skillful move of an Asian martial art technique, where one would elegantly take the energy of the charge to turn it around to disable the attacker.
So I may even pose the question: does an insult even exist ? Is it not just the purely egoic reaction of wanting to be right, based on a belief of having to defend one’s own image, that makes us believe in the insult in the first place – and succumb to the consequence of having to be right and prove the attacker wrong ?
And that is the question….
p.s. Insults can be very funny…Try Oscar Wilde