Words can harm. Words can heal. We all know this to be true. This notion is rooted in our common humanity and in our collective and personal experiences and doctrines. Yet, it is still something that we struggle with as a collective. There is scientific evidence that shows how self-affirmations can help to reduce psychological defenses; how just viewing negative words can release stress hormones that negatively impact the body; how bullying adversely affects the health of those subjected to bullying; how self-compassion and kindness can heal; how focusing on the positive can improve our overall well-being; and, how words themselves can impact the brain. In “Words Can Change Your Brain”, Dr. Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman confirm that the longer you focus on positive words, the more you affect your brain in positive ways.
We know the power that words can have on our health. If we fully acknowledged and affirmed that words can heal, we could bring relief to the millions who are suffering by just being aware of the words we use:
1) The words we use to describe ourselves cannot be the same words we use to describe our ailment if they are to help us to heal. Labels and symptoms define a health condition, not a human being. We may have an ailment, but we are not an ailment.
2) The words we use to describe appropriate responses to suffering cannot be the same words we use to describe a health condition. This happens when we define human responses to suffering as abnormal. An emotional event will generate an emotional response. This is normal. Releasing emotions is a necessity to healing.
3) The words we use to describe a health condition need not be derogatory or stigmatizing. Singling out people in a way that is shaming and stigmatizing because of a label or health condition for sure does not help or heal. Mental health issues, for example, are not confined to a subgroup of people. Everyone throughout their lifespan is negotiating their mental, emotional, and physical health. No one is immune from the stress and strain of life. We all experience loss and stressful events that can impact our health in some way. Some have physical health conditions that cause mental health issues. Some have mental health conditions that cause physical health issues. This is a holistic and healing perspective that acknowledges the interplay between body, mind, and spirit in each and everyone of us.
4) The words that we use need to be empowering and healing. To relieve the suffering of another and to relieve our own suffering requires compassion. The differences between us are not the result of an inherent weakness -- no matter what the health condition; rather, they are about our uniqueness; our unique life experiences; things we don't have control over like genetic predisposition; early life experiences; trauma and traumatic events; familial and financial stability; support systems and safety nets; access to quality health-care; the ability to adequately feed oneself; and various other social and economic disparities that place great stress and strain on some more than others. Compassion can heal what the mind cannot because it comes from the heart. Compassion can help to minimize untrue assumptions, judgments, and words that harm.
Words that heal begin with affirming our shared humanity. We are all connected. We are all capable of compassionate responses. We have the ability to choose words that heal. Labels and symptoms define a health condition, not a human being. Our health and well-being are precious. If we can begin to find words that heal and unify rather than alienate and separate those who are suffering, the world will be a better place for everyone, in both health and un-wellness.
Copyright © 2016. Sylvia Carlson. All Rights Reserved.
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