“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Has any child anywhere ever
felt better from hearing that one? I doubt it. For one thing, by the time it is said, the injury has already been done. How can there be no injury when it is felt so palpably? The truth is words do harm us, deeply, especially when they come from those we love who know precisely where the chinks in the armor are. Most of us, most of the time, for good reason, don’t go there. We fear doing irreparable harm to our relationships, stopping just short of delivering the fatality move. George and Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, a 1966 film based on the play by Edward Albee, don’t stop short, and the surgical precision with which they eviscerate each other is one of the most raw performances in all of cinema. This is codependency before codependency was cool.