Addressing Language Disorders
Iva Lloyd, ND
The ability of the mind to affect the outcome of health and disease is well documented. Mind-body therapies are gaining tremendous acknowledgment for their benefits in treating disorders and minimizing the intensity and severity of symptoms. But what appears to be lacking is the recognition of the mind as the root cause behind diseases. The mind is still primarily seen as supporting or inhibiting functions in the body, not initiating or driving them.
The conventional healthcare system has a tendency to look at the cause of symptoms either as ”mal-functions” of the body or as injuries and pathogens. From a naturopathic perspective, the psychological, functional and structural aspects of an individual are where symptoms and diseases manifest, but they are not the cause. The cause is due to disharmony at the level of the personal essence, excesses or deficiencies in the building blocks to health, or external and environmental factors. Even with some naturopathic practitioners, there tends to be more of a focus on the symptoms that manifest on the functional or structural aspect, with less attention spent on the psychological.
The state of a person’s mind is often the first sign of disharmony. It is through our thoughts and emotions that we determine the impact of different situations in our life. Our mind is what lets us know when we are not content at our core. It is our connection to our beliefs and expectations. It is the planner, organizer and facilitator of life. What is becoming very apparent is that the mind is actually the controller of all aspects of the body – what you think is what you manifest. When the mind is the primary concern for a patient or when it is the first aspect to show signs of imbalance, it often needs to be treated directly.
Triggers of Language Disorders
Language disorders can be triggered by situations that are perceived as threatening or overwhelming; when life is too demanding; when there are unclear expectations; when there are unsettling changes in work or personal environment; or when there is sense of not being content or “on the right path.” The primary site of manifestation of language disorders is the psychological level. There will always be corresponding symptoms on the functional and structural aspects, but these are secondary responses. As NDs, the aim is to treat the cause. In the case of language disorders, that involves working primarily at the psychological level and spending time with the patient to understand why a situation has affected them and how they are “holding” and reinforcing the pattern of disharmony in the body.
The psychological aspect of an individual relates to the mind and emotions. There are three aspects to the mind: the unconscious, the conscious and the spoken. It is at the level of the consciousness where people ruminate, extrapolate, intensify and create the impact of situations and events, and where they sense the level of contentment or discontentment that they have for their life. For some, this internal mind chatter continues unabated. The result is often the onset of “language disorders” or aggravation and exacerbation of other symptoms. Language disorders are conditions brought about by how a person is thinking, their internal mind chatter or stream of consciousness. Common language disorders are anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress.
Signs and symptoms are an indication that there is an imbalance in a person’s life, that something needs to be changed. Symptoms are the way that the body communicates with a person; this includes psychological symptoms. When the mind is unsettled, the goal is to listen to it and understand what it requires to be content, not simply to quiet it down. The first step to addressing language disorders is to become aware of what is really going on in the mind. Once patients know what is behind their discontentment, they can decide whether or not they want to address it and how. To assist a patient in becoming more aware, have them listen to their mind, to “eavesdrop” on their internal stream of consciousness and to determine the script and tape that is continuously running. Nobody can change what they are unaware of. It is not until patients are aware of the root cause behind their anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress that they can determine what changes they have to make or what internal beliefs need to be addressed. Awareness is the first stage to having appropriate choices.
How Patients Reveal the Root Cause
Spoken language may be the most important diagnostic and therapeutic tool in medicine. Patients reveal to a practitioner the root cause of their symptoms in their language; in the words that they choose, how they say them and how they respond to what they are saying. As practitioners learn to recognize somatic metaphors, changes in affect and mind mapping patterns, they are able to better determine the root causes of psychological imbalances and to assist patients more directly in addressing these issues.
- Somatic Metaphors: A somatic metaphor is when the words and phrases that patients use to explain their symptoms mirror what is going on in the body. For example, the following words and phrases often will have corresponding physical manifestations: “no control,” “not safe,” “stuck or restricted,” “suffocating,” “not able to grasp,” “not strong enough,” “no support” or “no time to breathe.” When the words that patients use to describe their physical sensations are repeated back to them, they can often see the parallel in their life. For example, if a patient reports that their chest feels restricted and you ask if there is any aspect of their life where they feel restricted, they will often say “yes” and follow it with a situation or repeating pattern of where they feel restricted in some way; or if a patient repeatedly states that they do not have sufficient support in their life, you will often find an aspect of the body is either lacking support (for example, a weak back) or is overcompensating (e.g., a stiff back). Linking a patient’s language to his or her physical symptoms is often very enlightening for patients and assists them in seeing the correlation. It is important with somatic metaphors that a practitioner stays in the patient’s language and asks open-ended questions vs. making direct correlations.
- Changes in Affect: As a patient relays his or her story, there is often a change in affect, a heightening or lessening of certain aspects. It is normal for a patient to show emotion when discussing a current situation, but if a situation that happened years ago still causes a change in affect, then it is probably still affecting a patient’s health. Human beings are complex systems, and many factors come into play to determine what affects them and what does not – but the degree of affect change to any specific situation often correlates to the intensity and impact that a situation is having on health. For example, when a patient recalls an abortion that happened five years ago and it causes her to break down, it indicates that the situation still holds a negative charge. The emotion attached to the abortion – whether guilt, anger, sadness or fear – will be held in an aspect of the body that corresponds to that emotion. Listening and noticing when a patient displays a change in affect is an important indication as to what situations and events in a patient’s history are still affecting their health and “playing” on their mind.
- Mind Mapping Patterns: Every person has a pattern to how they think. This order of thinking is particularly apparent when faced with a situation or decision that is difficult. Some people tend to be dualistic thinkers – worst-case vs. best-case scenario – and then become fixated on the worst-case scenario. Other people tend to get overwhelmed by thinking of all the possible things that could happen, and then get paralyzed by indecision. Asking patients to draw how their mind works is often an interesting and effective exercise. When I have asked patients to draw how they think, one of the following three main patterns emerge: a “ruminator,” a “scattered thinker” or a “directional thinker.”
I have found that a lot of patients with anxiety and depression tend to fall into one of these categories. Working with patients with language disorders is often about teaching them how to think differently, moving them from a tunnel view or a dualistic way of thinking to one that provides the mind with a range of options. It is also about teaching them to organize their thoughts as a process and to ask themselves, “What is the next thing I need to do?” vs. determining all the steps at once.
The Energetics of Emotions and Organs
Emotions are energy and have a specific energetic pattern. Every emotion, whether balanced or in an imbalanced state, is linked to an organ or system in the body that holds that same energetic quality. For example, the energy of fire is associated with the liver and holds anger, frustration and irritability, as well as enthusiasm and courage; earth energy is associated with bones (especially the spine) and knees and holds fear, paranoia and lack of boundaries, as well as the feeling of safety, protection and support; the energy of air is held in the lungs and heart and holds sadness, grief and hopelessness, as well as feelings of love and honesty. The emotion of the language disorder will often correlate to the physical part(s) of the body that mirrors the same energetic quality. When talking to patients, the manifestation of the symptoms provides insight into the emotion creating the imbalance.
The feeling of uneasiness can be healthy at times and can assist people in becoming more aware of their intuition, but can also be very unpleasant and lead to significant health problems. This sense of mental disharmony is a continuum that spans uneasiness, worry and anxiety all the way to intense fear. Anxiety is often associated with physical symptoms as well as an awareness of thoughts that do not turn off.
Anxiety is becoming an epidemic affecting people of all ages. Typically with anxiety there is a sense of a lack of safety, security, protection or boundaries – all of which are earth qualities. Many factors are responsible for the rise in anxiety: the increased use of the Internet, especially with young children; greater access to world news; increased knowledge about the threats to the environment and natural resources … Everywhere we turn there is the same message: The external environment is not safe.
In an anxiety state a person’s internal mind chatter is “out of control.” Anxiety is typically a response to past or perceived future events. It is either the inability to let go of something that happened in the past, or the concern that something bad might happen in the future. Working with patients with anxiety often involves teaching them how to stay present and how to breathe. It is about patients becoming more mindful and trusting in their ability to handle situations as they arise. It involves recognizing the impact of external information and limiting their exposure to disturbing stimuli. It is about developing a greater sense of internal strength, safety and boundaries.
If someone dislikes an aspect of life and is sad, he or she is not depressed; he or she is balanced. Health is about alignment, and NDs work by treating the cause. If people are discontent with an aspect of their life, sadness can be what is needed to stimulate them to make a change. Suppression happens when patients take a medication, pharmaceutical or natural, that makes them feel better without changing what is making them sad. It is sometimes necessary to palliate if the depression is severe, as long as the focus of the treatment is on assisting a patient in recognizing what is needed to change and how the patient can make change to live a life that he or she enjoys.
With depression, the internal mind chatter is typically negative and fixated on a narrow range of thoughts. Depressed people usually pull away from others. This is healthy and often necessary for them to regroup and determine what is important in their life and what they have to do to create a life that is rewarding and one they look forward to. It is possible to alleviate the feelings of depression with supplements and other treatments, but when working with depression there is often the need to address the root cause behind the depression, which often results in changing an aspect of one’s life and broadening a person’s thoughts and focus.
Post-traumatic stress occurs when the trauma of a situation or accident causes a person to go into a state of shock or overwhelm and locks the stress into an aspect of their body. What I often find in patients with post-traumatic stress is that the imprinting of the “story” associated with the event often ends with a worst-case scenario ending; for example, when a child falls down the stairs and is fine, but the mother can’t let go of “what could have happened”; or an individual who is in a terrible car accident and focuses on the fact that he or she “could have died” vs. “I’m okay.” Working with post-traumatic stress patients is multi-faceted, but one exercise I often employ is asking patients to write out the incident associated with the post-traumatic stress and to focus on the ending – ensuring that it “unwinds” the trauma and restores a sense of harmony and safety.
Addressing Language Disorders
The first step to addressing any aspect of psychological disharmony is for patients to become aware of what their mind is actually trying to convey. Addressing dietary and lifestyle factors are beneficial, as well as exercise and meditation or relaxation. But to address the cause of language disorders, you often need to ask patients about their internal mind chatter and assist them in determining what it is about and how to change it.
Utilizing journaling exercises, different forms of abstract art and free-form writing exercises are valuable in assisting patients in understanding what is behind their psychological symptoms. Recommending meditation, breathing exercises, mindfulness activities and simply quiet time is also helpful. Many times, working with the language disorders involves determining how patients actually think and then teaching them new ways to structure their thoughts and understand what is behind them. The arena of the psychological holds a vast array of knowledge and power that we are just starting to explore and understand. Sometimes the best treatment we can provide patients is the tools to understanding their mind and how to change their thinking.
Iva Lloyd, BScH, RHN, RPP, ND graduated from CCNM in 2002. She is a Reiki master and registered polarity practitioner, has studied educational kinesiology (Brain Gym), NeuroLinguistic Programming and Runic Energy Archetypes. Dr. Lloyd teaches seminars on the energetics of health and disease, and is the author of Messages From the Body – A Guide to the Energetics of Health. Prior to becoming an ND, she consulted and held senior management positions in both the technology and healthcare fields. She is the founder of Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic in Markham, Ontario and chair of the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors.
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