Your Winter 2006 issue had an article on guided imagery and one on healing words. They really both encompass the same elements. Every word carries with it an image and an experience. Treating a diagnosis does not treat the patient's experience.
It is sad that we are not trained in medical school in the use of words and how wordswordswords can become swords. A scalpel can kill or cure; so can our words.
When you ask patients what they are experiencing, the words that come forth are always about their lives. It is common to hear words like failure, draining, sucking, burden, pressure. At the other extreme, gift, wake-up call and new beginning are also common.
To be more specific, when a patient of mine said her cancer felt like her body had failed her, I asked how "failure" fit her life. She said, "My parents committed suicide when I was a child. So, I must have been a failure as a child."
Another example: a woman about to be admitted to the hospital for a severe migraine described the pain as pressure and a burden. She went home pain-free once we discussed the other pressure and burden in her life: her marriage.
When you ask patients to draw themselves, their diseases, their treatments and their immune systems, it becomes easy to see where changes are needed. One patient draws the operating room as a black box with no one there to care. His expectations and his outcomes will be quite different from one who draws a beautiful scene filled with caring doctors, nurses, spiritual symbols and more.
Our words and images can kill or cure, We can help empower our patients to change their lives and their images and achieve true healing.
Bernie Siegel, MD