Words are important. And the words a therapist, doctor, or healer use with their clients or patients are especially important.
It seems obvious but most of us are sometimes sloppy, don’t think about how our words may be perceived, and we may even be – knowingly or unknowingly – intellectually dishonest.
This came up for me when I asked a top level energy healer about my chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and specifically a crash following over-exertion (PEM).
His reply was “the tiredness has emotional causes”.
I am very open to work on any emotional issues that may maintain the CFS and prevent healing. After all, the body is a seamless whole, CFS is a complex and chronic condition without a single known cause or remedy, and working on any part of my system and environment can support my body in healing. Emotional issues are already on top of my list of things to address, along with strengthening my energy system, diet, and aiming to live in a warmer and dryer climate.
And yet, his reply seems a bit careless.
First, CFS isn’t just or even primarily about “tiredness”. The symptoms are typically a combination of fatigue, brain fog, digestive problems, sleep problems, post-exertion worsening (PEM), temperature dysregulation, and much more. To reduce it to “tiredness” makes it sound like it’s just a worse or more lasting form of regular tiredness which is far from reality.
Second, CFS has several known non-emotional factors. For instance, it often follows an infection like mononucleosis (as in my case). The Epstein-Barr virus seems to play a role. The tendency to crash following exertion (PEM) is a core symptom and isn’t related to emotions in any obvious way. Diet is an important factor in stabilizing the condition and perhaps the healing. Nutrients the same. And climate often plays a big role for people with CFS. (I get worse in cold and wet climates and sometimes remarkably much better in warm and dry climates.)
Emotional issues definitely plays a role in well-being and in reducing stress (which can support the body in stabilizing and perhaps even healing itself). It may even be one of several factors in the onset and maintenance of the illness – although we don’t know enough about that yet.
But to say that “the tiredness has emotional causes” reveals a lack of understanding of CFS and a lack of humility when faces with a complex and relatively poorly understood illness.
Also, there is a difference between factors that cause, maintain, and support healing from an illness. Sometimes, these are different from each other. And especially when it comes to chronic, complex, and poorly understood conditions, some or all of the healing factors may be different from the initial causes and even the maintaining factors.
It may be the healer had a sense or intuition that it can help me to address some emotional issues and that’s my sense too. If he had that sense and still expressed it as “the tiredness has emotional causes”, then it seems he made a big, unnecessary, and potentially misleading assumption.
If I took what he said seriously and literally, as some would, it would close the door to other approaches. Including approaches that may be equally or more important in supporting my system in its healing process.
For several reasons, it would have been much better for him to say “it may help your system to work on emotional issues – try it and see what happens”. It would be closer to his reality. It would be more intellectually honest. It wouldn’t conflate causes, maintaining factors, and healing factors. And it would support the client – in this case me – to follow his pointer while also staying more open to other possibilities.
In summary: I see there is a grain of truth in what he said and working on emotional issues is already on top of my priorities. (I have been working on it for a while.) And yet, I see his response as careless, potentially misleading, and even intellectually dishonest.
In the worst case, it can close the door on addressing other factors that can support the healing as much or more.
Setting all of this aside, which emotional issues are on my to-do list? I am especially interested in working on any possible issues that may have stressed my system at the onset of the illness when I was fifteen, any fears of staying sick, and even any fears of being healthy and fully involved in the world again.Read More