The Power of Words

The Power of Words

Recently I received a very nice e-mail containing the following sentence: »I see you suffer from schizoaffective disorder.« I found it a totally neutral expression. My husband, however, was bothered by the verb to suffer. He said it reminded him too intensively of suffering. I started to think about the power of words. Let me list the various possibilities we have to name a diagnosis in mental health field:

1.      I am a lunatic. ― Definitely the worst way of putting it. It’s a derogatory word. In addition to that we have a full identification: I = lunatic, which means I am nothing but a lunatic. Or in other words: being a lunatic is my whole identity. The implication of this is that I will act like a lunatic also when I am not having biochemical trouble in my brain.

2.      I am bipolar. ― This variation is a bit better, because the word bipolar is neutral. On the other hand we still have the full identification: I = bipolar.

3.      I suffer from bipolar disorder. ― Here the only problematic aspect is the verb to suffer. The meaning of the verb in this sentence is neutral, but somehow we are reminded of other meanings as well. The suffering spectrum of the palette of meanings of this verb is somewhere in the back of our brain, even if we use the verb in this neutral medical sense.

4.      I have bipolar disorder. ― This is the way of mentioning a diagnosis that I find the least harmful. It’s similar to saying: I have diabetes. It says something about a biochemical problem in our brain, but it leaves our personality intact.

I am sure you have heard several times that the words we utter, create our reality. I believe one’s life is a combination of one’s destiny (things that happen) and one’s actions (what one does about things that happen). A spoken word or sentence in language theory is considered an act. It’s called a speech act. Mind the words you use. They have the power to create. You are not responsible for having gotten the bipolar disorder or another mental illness. This is your destiny. It is your responsibility to do something about it though. And choosing the right words can be a nice start.



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