The Language of Healing

The Power of Words: Talk Yourself Into Health!

by Patricia Cramer

Excerpts from an article published in Massage & Bodywork Magazine (a publication of the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals) 

Conscious speaking affects everything that we say and do. Being mindful of speech is an ancient method which allows for creative potential and change.

More than techniques, the Language of Healing is a body of knowledge based in the idea of neuro-linguistics, namely, that our body’s nerves respond to what is being said. In her book, Your Body Believes Every Word You Say, Barbara Levine Hoberman says that, “The body responds to every word that a person says.” The Language of Healing goes a step further and says that a person feels and responds to every word that is said, heard or thought, even when speaking to her-/himself. What most of us haven’t yet fully realized is that the human brain works so fast that it actually images almost immediately every word or action said, heard or felt. The physiology responds to all of it, even our judgments and interpretations. Any behavior or tension, including undesirable or unwanted behavior, can completely take over the physiology in response to what is thought about, said or heard.

If this is so about our physiology, even if only momentarily, it is important for us to begin using words and language more deliberately, whenever we speak. The Language of Healing encourages thinking and speaking with clarity, putting the past in the past, the future in the future, and being present to what we are creating right now. For instance, one might say to their massage therapist, “I have come to you today because my leg has been hurting (the past), knowing that you can make a difference in the joint connections here (the now), so that I might run again soon with no residual pain (the future).”

It is important to use language that promotes the desired behavior that you want now. Two well-known psychotherapists, Virginia Satir and Milton Erikson, were aware of such language and used it to produce exceptional results with their clients. Their work was a forerunner to neuro-linguistics (Neuro-linguistic Programming, NLP.) Tony Robbins, another developer of these principles cites as an example, that a mother who emphatically says, “Don’t spill the milk!” is actually having the child visualize the milk spilling before they attempt to “not” spill the milk. He says that the brain cannot “not” something! So with a command to “not” do something, the brain must first have the physiology test out actually doing it. Very possibly, the child will spill the milk again because of the imbedded command in the sentence to “spill the milk.”

Another example of the power of our brain is the fact that people want to be liked and want to be like each other in very subtle ways. Even subliminally, we mimic the actions of other people while they speak, or become like what they are saying. Our physiology is responding ever so slightly, if not dramatically, without our even being aware of it. Put your attention on people and you can see them do it.

The Language of Healing is a way of speaking responsibly about our bodies and lives, so that when we speak, we are causing and accessing healing and change. It provides a way to phrase language so that people can begin their healing now, as a process, rather than continue to speak as if they are that way; the dis-eased way. The key here is that the physiology of our nervous system and brain is so extraordinary that it is constantly imaging things before we act on them. The Language of Healing is a very useful tool to grasp for the health of our bodies, especially in dealing with pain, or some problem that we would like to be a different way. Here are a few examples of how people can begin to make a difference in their own health, by simply shifting their speaking and thinking. These simple ways to change our language can completely alter our health and our well-being:

Instead of: “I have a big knot in my shoulder.”

Say: “There’s a muscle in my shoulder that could soften up and be a lot looser.” (This is especially effective when you are touching the muscle while you say words like looser, softer, or relaxed.)

Instead of: “My neck is so tight,” or, “My head is killing me.”

Say: “I’ve been holding my neck tightly here in the past. Now, I’m learning to let my head float over my spine and have it feel liquid.

Instead of: “I always bump into things. I’m such a klutz.”

Say: “I am paying more attention to my body and surroundings.”

Instead of: “I have a bad back.”

Say: “I am putting more attention on how I walk now, so that my back keeps getting looser and more flexible.”

These changes in speaking give us the health we want with ease and simplicity. Yet in the past, true body awareness and health have not been a big part of our society’s everyday conversation. We have learned to think of our bodies as solid objects associated with illness and disease and “accidents.” We “treat” diseases with complicated names, treating the body like a solid mass, cutting out, medicating or numbing whatever is going on in a pretense of submission. Sometimes this is called healing. We say the disease condition is “cured.” This is the paradigm for health and bodies with which most of our modern day population is familiar. Remember, the Language of Healing is not just affirmations; it is a way to presence change in our physiology, leaving the past in the past, and creating new behaviors for the future.

In this new fluid way of being, realizations and possibilities are available for bodies. What if the body was not considered solid, not a mass of mechanisms to be labeled like the parts of a car? What if the body were a flowing liquid process continually engaging, interpreting, letting go? What if health were as fluid and irresistible as water eroding the most resistant obstruction? The Language of Healing addresses not only how we move and breathe, but also how we think about moving and breathing.

Other Examples of Healthy Speaking

Recognizing that words affect the physiology, we can use the Language of Healing to speak about the body in ways that manifest a healthy physiology.

Instead of saying: This toe is pretty cut off here,” practice saying something like the following:

  • “See if you can open up the flow to this toe.”
  • What if this toe had more circulation?
  • Can you let this foot hang more freely and relax while you walk?
  • What if this ankle area had more space for flow to the toes?

Choose your words so that what you say brings the desired new condition into focus. When working with a client, instead of saying, “Don’t lock your knees,” say “Allow your knees to loosen or soften more.” Or instead of saying, “Don’t hold your breath,” say “Breathe deeply.” Here are some other examples for you to create the Language of Healing:

Instead of: “Your neck really is tight.”

Say: “Your neck has lots of room to let go, doesn’t it?

Instead of: “Boy, are you really blocked!”

Say: There is really a lot of room to release here, isn’t there?

Instead of: “There is still pain here.”

Say: “This area really let go during the session.”

Instead of: “I’m sorry that you were ill.”

Say: “I’m glad that you are feeling well again.”

If you have to mention the malady or the area that was stressed, reference it to the past. When the client says, “My neck is so tight,” reply with, “I can feel how it’s been held tightly here in the past. Now, just let your head float over your spine and feel how liquid your neck can be.”

Here are other examples for referencing a malady to the past:

“It looks as if your knee was constricted in the past.”

“I can tell that your elbow has been very tight here before.”

“It used to be difficult for me to use the Language of Healing.”

You can verbally refer to an old behavior or habit and then bring in a new one as the last reference point, on purpose. This gives the brain the opportunity to retain the reference or image of the desired activity as the most recent and vivid.

For instance, say:

“You used to eat that way. What can you eat now, to feel better?”

“In the past, you had little experience. Now your skills are great!”

“Yes, your life has been rough. How do you want it now?”

Always keep good eye contact, and watch carefully. Be gentle, have fun, and be attentive to people. This in itself makes people feel better about themselves and puts you into rapport with them. Listen for words–theirs and yours–deliberately chosen so that you “speak” people into their new way of being: well-being!

The Language of Healing is about listening to what we say and what is said. It is about tuning into the “now” moment and feeling what our bodies do when someone speaks, or especially when we are speaking to ourselves! Health becomes more available through our speaking, thinking, and what we say to ourselves. This is especially true while we’re standing, walking, and sitting. It is not a mystery. It is through simple conversations that cultural change can reverberate and emanate out from us to others.

Summary of the Language of Healing

  • Our physiology responds to everything heard, said or thought.
  • Speak the healthy condition. Choose your words deliberately.
  • When you must speak about an unhealthy condition, reference it to the past, and speak very specifically about what is happening and true now with the healing or healthy condition.
  • Mention the unhealthy condition first and speak about the healthy condition last. Leave people in the presence of the healthy image.
  • Remember, at the core, people want to be in agreement with each other.


About Patricia Cramer

Patricia Cramer is the founder of the World School of Massage San Francisco and the developer of Vibrational Healing Massage Therapy. She has personally trained thousands of certified massage therapists, professional bodyworkers, holistic health coaches, instructors and leaders over the last 30+ years.

In addition to Vibrational Healing Massage Therapy, Ms. Cramer is credited with several contributions in the field of holistic healing massage and somatics including Babies in Motion: Birth Trauma ReleaseStructural Foot Balancing Foot Massage, and Massage Body Mechanics. She can be reached at the World School of Massage San Francisco at 415-221-2533 or at World School of Massage in Pleasanton: 925-461-2533.