What's in a Word?
Over the last decades, thousands of books have been written about how words can improve our life. We know that positive words change our brainwave patterns and therefore how we feel – positive thinking and all that – but what about the use language to subtly influence our way of thinking without us even realising it?
We may think that ‘words don’t matter’, but they do. Words can be used to be open and informative but equally, as a covert tool to influence opinion. Using emotive language can alter another’s interpretation, and therefore their perception, to ensure that information comes across more positively or negatively dependant on the desire of the influencing body.
These figures of speech can frame our opinion without us even realising it is happening. Let’s face it, we only have to listen to the various news channels, and their version of the same incident, to see that in action.
Alternative or Complementary?
‘The natural healing force in each of us is the greatest force in getting well’
Hippocrates (the father of modern medicine)
I have worked for many years in the Natural Health field and have been privileged to witness a growing movement towards people wanting more control over their health choices, but language was, and is, noticeably and consistently used to influence people’s attitude towards holistic modalities. To aid free health choices, I have always felt it important to understand and promote the difference between Alternative and Complementary treatments, which are often lumped together but are, in fact, distinctly different.
In the past, the media and references from mainstream medicine, almost always referred to Alternative Medicine in a vaguely dismissive tone, cleverly and subtly implying the insanity of ditching the conventional medical approach in favour of dangerous weirdness. Of course, this is not what natural health is about. Not even an holistic practitioner’s first thought would be for a healer if they had broken a bone; they would want immediate medical attention to reset the bone and probably the pain relief to go with it. Then, they would use natural methods to work with their body to complete the healing! A combined approach which seems logical to me.
Surely then, the more suitable terminology for this combination is Complementary, the term used by practitioners and governing bodies alike, referring to healing practices and products that work in conjunction with traditional medicine. Complementary health methods encourage us to learn about our individual systems, to understand our physical and emotional needs and respond accordingly, before a condition manifests, whilst also working in conjunction with pharmaceuticals where necessary.
Today, more research is being carried out to prove the efficacy of complementary modalities, driven I believe, by the increasing number of people wanting choices in their own health. More doctors are showing an interest in, and an understanding of, natural modalities and, as a result, there has been a shift towards a third category - Integrative Medicine - combining Alternative and Complementary treatments with Western medical treatments. This approach works with the individual on all levels; to find the underlying cause of illness, to determine alternatives to pharmaceuticals where possible and using complementary modalities to activate the body’s own ability to heal itself and reduce physical, emotional and mental stress. In this way, the patient feels empowered to be part of their healing process and learns how to work with their body to permanently improve their overall health.
In the 1990’s, we were privileged to visit an entire hospital wing in Louisiana, run by a medical doctor and dedicated totally to natural practices. Doctors were referring their patients from all over the USA to this facility, which at that time was truly cutting edge. Now, Integrative Centres are wide-spread, promoting Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Naturopathy and Kinesiology, which are accepted into healthcare systems world-wide. They encourage strategies for stress reduction, a major cause of illness, including Meditation and Art and Sound Therapies. They incorporate the power of Osteopathy, Chiropractic, Massage and Reflexology for body framework correction and Energy Medicine in the form of Healing, Qi Gong, Vibrational Medicine and Colour/Light Therapy. All are becoming widely accepted as vital components to attaining good health by utilising ‘the natural healing force within’.
Despite the massive changes in attitude I have witnessed since the 1960’s, there is still a long way to go before we each fully embrace the idea of integrative health and to know that we have the ability to positively affect our own health in so many ways. I do believe, however, that over time, the sheer weight of people’s desire for choice will drive forward more research into natural health. Then, we will all fully recognise, understand and trust integrative health, giving us the powerful ingredients to develop our own unique holistic recipe to wellness.
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