“You have a lung disease.” A statement with two words together that you never want to hear. As the doctor carried on with other inconsequential words like “inhaler, medication, tests” my brain had gone into an amygdale high-jack thereby cutting off all rational thought and processes and replacing it with an irrational scream of “I’m going to die”.
“Excuse me, just go back and clarify what exactly you mean by lung disease” I squeaked as I hoped for an alternative better word to match my personal mundane diagnosis of “I feel a bit breathless”. The doctor spoke as he wrote, focused on his pad. “You have Emphysema” – nope, not a better word, in fact this one had a picture that went with it – an old man, smoking away, coughing, none of which fitted me.
I never really heard any words after that and there seemed to be no words of comfort or empathy from the doctor, just a “blah, blah make an appointment for tests” and a written illegible script with a medication word obviously dreamed up by someone whose job is to put nonsense words together for pharmaceuticals. There must be a ‘medical scrabble’ job title where the rules are to name a drug with the specification of ‘more than nine letters, has to have the letter x in it, can only be found in an extraterrestrial dictionary and has to sound medical, superior and scary all at the same time’.
In a daze I went to the pharmacy to be issued with more words in the drug composition that, to a person who hasn’t taken any medication for 20 years, was freaking me out. I pointed to ‘corticosteroids’. “Oh don’t worry” she said as she saw my face” “you won’t put on weight with that one” – as if that was my primary concern at this time.
I had to find others words which would have a better response in my “I’m dying here, man” brain and the impact on my ‘diseased lungs’ was breathtaking – literally.
I got home and purposely avoided the “book of death” – the medical encyclopedia that my husband has banned me from reading as the symptoms have the same impact as watching someone yawn, contagious just by looking at it. With great willpower I also bypassed my best friend Google and instead headed for Louise Hay, always a great book of words that I’ve used for about 25 years.
“Much better words”, I gasped as it outlined the fear more than the condition, which I could connect with emotionally, giving the brain another option to focus and obsess on and providing an affirmation and power words that switch off the flight and fight action, give hope and a possible new neural pathway and also a sense of power over the body.
The analytical part of my brain returned however and wanted to know more about the “Big E’ (bit friendlier than the full word version I thought) and my Google addiction kicked in again. What an extensive list of terrifying words I found!
‘Terminal’ created a new elevated state of hyperventilation, as did ‘incurable, chronic oxygen deprivation, death’ and ‘progressive’ and as I searched for the word ‘survival’ it was only accompanied by a time frame rather than a percentage.
As I gasped my new mantra of “I live fully and freely” to recover I thought maybe other similar conditions would give me hope or a different prognosis but all it did was add new horror words and associated conditions that I could aspire to and hasten my demise. By the end I was convinced that as well as Emphysema I also had lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, impending heart failure, pulmonary embolism, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple viruses and a corn on my foot which had probably started it all.
As I scoured the bookcase for words that I was used to, regarding health, I saw “ reconnection, living magically, healing, light, wellness, mind-power, self love, cures” a different reality to what I was now being presented with but that wasn’t being addressed in a literal sense to my medical diagnosis.
In NLP, linguistics is a critical part of understanding others, facilitating relationships and transforming limiting beliefs. Words are often symbols that represent ideas, memories and experiences. Our external and internal language matter and have the power of life and death as they impact on our mind, emotions and body, our behavior and repeated sequences of thought and action. Language makes our internal world visible, audible and tangible to others. It allows us to share, to experience freedom and to uplift others.
Negative words can destroy self esteem and confidence especially when following the ‘you’ word. Children have given up dreams based on the words of teachers or parents and engaged in destructive behaviours based on the words from peer pressure. Words such as “stupid, fail, achieve, fat, coward, right and wrong, sin, win” have enormous power especially when combined with intention, emotion and an influential relationship.
The brain also doesn’t recognize a negative contradictory command focusing instead on the embedded command so ‘no,’ ‘not’ and ‘don’t’ often have the opposite effect. “Don’t touch that paint, no running, I’m not available” invokes a unconscious desire to touch the paint, start running and contact the person.
The power of words is used extensively in sales and marketing, “just do it” as an example and I must confess that certain words such as ‘sale, 70% off, free, 2 for the price of 1’ also have strange persuasive powers that can veer the course of my feet and involve a hypnotic opening of the wallet.
On the positive front, people have also changed their life course, exceeded all expectations or healed spontaneously by the right words at the right time. “I am” are the most powerful words we have, defining our identity, our spiritual connection and our persona and because of their power are often used in affirmations and mantras.
Before the advent of ‘Red Bull’ to give you wings, Aristophanes said
“By words the mind is winged”
In the space of a day my mind had travelled round the world twice, returning to roost in the fear nest over and over again. A new flight path was needed to heal.
My journey began with redefining, clearing the mental patterns and reframing the words into better, more empowering words and phrases. The first re-wording inspiration again came from Louise Hay that unpicked one of the scariest words and gave me an action plan.
“Incurable…means to me that this particular condition cannot be cured by any outer means and that we must go within to find the cure”
The second inspiration was from a TV chat show I was watching whilst experiencing the side effects from my list of doom. Timothy Spall, an English actor was talking about being given three days to live after being diagnosed with leukemia (now 16 years ago). After looking at his wife hanging out washing, carrying on as normal he said to her
“I’m going to tell you something, darling. I’m not going to die. I just decided. It’s tough, but I know you know I’m not”
Words do have wings and sometimes words that provoke action need to be spoken out loud. It confirms the decision and transforms the power of thought into focused form in a more solid way so that we can understand and consequently influence and manifest. However we have to also remember that often those wings will reach others and words of negativity, hate or fear will impact just as strongly as words of positive action.
“Boys flying kites haul in their white winged birds;
You can’t do that way when you’re flying words
Be careful with fire is good advice we know
Be careful with words is ten times doubly so
Thoughts unexpressed may sometime fall down dead
But God himself can’t kill them when they’re said”
Occasionally powerful, expressive and sometimes darkly humorous language puts things into perspective and my third words of inspiration came from another quote from Timothy Spall that appealed to my warrior self and my underpinning value of freedom when he declared:
“F**k this. I’m not having people telling me I might not…live”
And so I closed my 351 searches on Google, cremated my medical diagnosis and along with my other new mantras to act on, I added this phrase that made me laugh to my ‘healing dictionary’ and started the journey with new winged words and a new destination to fly to.
Things to remember with words
- You are what you speak -The words you say will affect yourself and others in all dimensions, emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. They define who you are and what your life purpose is
- If you speak about someone else, ask – “Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind”
- For positive feedback – Put the emotion in, (wow, amazing, thanks so much) for negative feedback- take the emotion out (I am concerned will get a better result than I am disgusted)
- Words last seconds, the impact can last a lifetime – spend some seconds uplifting people and perhaps changing their lives
- Anytime words stop you doing what is important to you – change them, reframe them or even cremate them
- Some negative words have their uses “F***k this, WTF, and F***K off” can be liberating, motivating and empowering but be careful – the wings are strong on this one!
- Hugs are when there are no words to say – if you can’t find the words, hug someone. Your wings will open and enfold them