I have always been a lover of language and communication and I am convinced of the power of language. It makes sense that as a profession, I chose writing and communication. I believe the words we choose and the way we put them together has the power to define our personal outcomes, our characters, our religions, governments and societies in general. I’m not alone in this idea, in fact, it has been studied repeatedly and there is plenty of scientific evidence of the power of language.
Health and Communication: My Thoughts and Studies
Since I wrote yesterday’s post about speaking peace into our relationships, I’ve been thinking again about how we speak, and in particular, about how we speak about our health. My master’s thesis was a study on a similar theme—I studied how doctors and medical scientists speak and write about complementary medicine within the field of integrative medicine. So I have a long history of looking at health and communication. In thinking of these things, I wanted to bring to your attention common ways that we speak health, or really, unhealth to our own bodies by providing you some examples of things I know I have said, and it’s likely you have said or thought as well.
Four Ways We Communicate Un-Health to Our Bodies
1. I’m catching a cold: this is one of the most common phrases and I wonder “why would you CATCH a cold?” Try visualizing that one! Why instead would you not AVOID a cold? We’ve said this throughout our lives and guess what? We end up catching that darn cold. Here’s an alternative you can use from now on: I’m avoiding a cold. I’m fighting a cold. One thing I’ve always thought is, “a cold is trying to attach itself to my system, but I’m not letting it.” I rarely get colds.
2. I AM a diabetic. I AM an alcoholic. I AM manic depressive. I AM (fill in the blank with any chronic illness which we’ve thoughtlessly claimed as being who we are). My answer to this is, “no you are not!” Your body may have a disposition to be vulnerable to these chronic illnesses, but they do not DEFINE who you are. They should not define who you are. Part of the problem is we use these chronic conditions to explain certain behaviors and weaknesses about us. I was once diagnosed with manic depressive disorder—to be honest I don’t know if it was correct or not, because I refuse to ascribe to it. I may have some leanings toward it, but I am not that. It does not define who I am. Some things we can’t deny, however, and some things it is better if we admit our weaknesses to, but that does not mean we label ourselves with these conditions. Here’s an alternative to speak to your body and mind: “the doctor has said that I portray a person with alcoholism, but I am fighting it. Because I AM a fighter.” Or here’s another: “I exhibit symptoms of diabetes, but I treat my body with medicines and a healthy lifestyle—I am not a diabetic, I am a fighter of diabetes!”
3. I have a cold. I have the flu. I have pneumonia. You have? Well then, with your language at least, stop holding onto it! Stop possessing it! Don’t possess unhealth, possess health. Prevent unhealth. And if you got lax in preventing it, then fight unhealth.
Societal Norms in Our Language = Unhealth
Our negative way of speaking about health is a societal norm in these United States and it is reflected in how our healthcare system runs. It is not a system that rewards preventive measures, or a system that rewards health. It is not a system that pays doctors to keep us healthy, but rather to “practice” on us after we get sick (ever wondered why a doctor’s business is called a “practice”). This way of speaking produces in us a general acceptance of sickness in our bodies. We need to stop this! There are some countries where the people pay doctors to keep them healthy and when they get sick, they stop paying them. Now there’s an idea for health insurance! Or maybe that would be called health a-ssurance.
Please know that in writing this, it is only my heart that I suggest an alternative, and it’s not a complete answer. These are just some things that I have done for my own life that have worked, and so yes, I believe in them. But this philosophy must start early, even before the onset or hint of illness. I know there are times when illness strikes hard and we have nothing in us to fight and there’s nothing we know to do. At that point, the best we as loved ones can do is to love that person, care for them, show compassion, and minister as best we can to their heart and soul.