Should we “fight” an illness or heal it?
These days we regularly hear phrases such as we will “beat this illness or must “battle” against it. On the surface this fighting talk can sound very positive and help demonstrate that we are not just going to lie down and let ourselves be walked over whatever the odds. This in itself may be no bad thing but are there other unforeseen consequences to using this sort of terminology. A recent study at the University of Lancaster found that using “war metaphors” in the “fight” against cancer may not always be as helpful as it might appear.
How often do we hear that someone has” lost their battle” against a serious illness. This type of terminology is glibly used by media, pundits and experts but does it help the person suffering and does it help people recover or prolong their lives? In fact although these battling terms may be helpful for charities to raise money interestingly Macmillan Cancer Support has consciously held back from this sort of terminology. According to researcher Elena Semino professor of linguistics and verbal art at Lancaster University it is best left to the individual to choose their own metaphors to help them with their illness. It was also found that when battle terminology is applied patients may begin to feel a sense of responsibility if their condition deteriorates.
When we are ill what are we looking for? Health.
Whether one is suffering from an emotional or physical illness are we not looking for good health? And the first four letters of health are HEAL. By healing we are truly mobilising the resources of body and mind in a way that makes so much more sense. If we are in a “struggle” to lose weight implicitly we are in a struggle with ourselves. If we are “fighting” a life threatening disease then we could find ourselves fighting our own body! Will we really be able to muster the energy to “battle” with depression when one’s internal resources seem to be so low?
Anyone who has studied and qualified as a hypnotherapist, counsellor or psychotherapist will have been trained in the use of language and the importance of the words chosen and how how best to use them. Hypnosis uses it’s own particular language patterns and these patterns are designed to bypass the conscious mind and communicate with the unconscious mind. Without this we would have to rely on conscious communication to make a change and as we have all experienced at some time or other the conscious mind knows what we “should” be doing but does not always have the tools to make the required changes. Smokers may know that they want to quit but telling oneself is one thing and doing it is another just as telling ourselves to eat healthy food does not always make it happen.
We are using words constantly when communicating with others and when talking internally to ourselves. But are we really aware of what the message might be that is often hidden behind our thoughts and internal conversation and the effect it is creating? I see healing as the focus to bring together the natural resources of mind and body for real and meaningful change. However using such terms as fight, beat, and struggle could just be setting up an internal conflict that will block the results we are looking for.