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Arts and Health: The language of empowerment

Journal Entry: Sat Feb 9, 2013, 6:36 PM
What is empowerment?

Empowerment means different things to different people. I would say that, in general, it means that we are in a position of power such that we have a say in the way things happen in our lives. It means that we can act in ways that will bring the good things we desire into our lives or, if that isn't possible, act in a way that limits the amount of negativity that happens when bad things enter our lives.

It's about being able to make a choice between "I CAN do this" and "I WILL do this."

Contrary to popular belief, the truth is that no one can empower you for you. Empowerment must come from within. The good news is that it doesn't need to require hours of psychotherapy to find it. :XD: It starts simply with language.

Really?!

Yes, really. How often do you put yourself down? How frequently do you begin sentences with, "This may sound crazy/silly/stupid, but . . ."? Do you realize that every time you use words to create a scenario in which you are disempowered in any way, you are actually putting yourself there, both to yourself and to other people?

Reality is transmitted from me to you via words, or verbal constructs.What that means is that when I say, "I'm being stupid today," I am not simply venting. "Stupid" has a whole list of connotations (associations) with it. It means we're not functioning at our best, or perhaps that we are intellectually inferior or not good enough. And when you pass that construct to the next person by speaking it out loud to them, they too receive the image of your being inferior in some way. That can stick on you and become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Get it?

Another way in which we pass on disempowerment is through stigma. Think of all the terminology you hear about mental illness, for example. How often do you hear people call one another "crazy"?

"You must be crazy to grocery shop at 2 in the morning."
"He drives like a maniac."
"My professor is crazy if he thinks I can finish this calculus test in 15 minutes."


Are people with mental illness "crazy"? No, but we sure like to construct a reality in which they are that way.

There are other examples we see even our doctor's offices:

The mental patient in room 4 hasn't taken her medicine today.
That schizophrenic is doing well; he is holding down a full-time job now.
The bipolar sometimes needs some extra time on tests.


The words "schizophrenic" and "bipolar" are adjectives, not nouns!

It is inappropriate for anyone to call anyone by their disease or health condition. You are NOT a health condition; you are a person who lives WITH a health condition. So, the above sentences can better be stated as:

The patient in room 4 hasn't taken her medicine today.
The man is doing well and holds a part-time job in spite of having schizophrenia.
The student who lives with bipolar disorder sometimes needs extra time.


Which version is more empowering?

I am using a mental health context because that is what I know both personally and professionally. However, this is true in every medical context you can think of.

Someone is not DIABETIC. Rather, they LIVE WITH DIABETES.

Would you ever call someone who lives with cancer a TUMOR?

These words, these descriptions and names, are the way we relate to the world and the way the world relates to us. It is perhaps unfortunate that, as humans, the way we come to know things is to categorize and classify them. As such, there will always be labels. But, guess what! WE get to choose the labels we will allow to be attached to us. And we also get to choose whether we will give them power over our lives.




Your turn

What are some labels you've put on yourself or that others have put on you? It can be related to anything-- an illness, a lifestyle choice, a characteristic like nationality or skin color, or anything else. How would you turn those labels around and adopt a perspective that is more empowering for you? What is YOUR new language of empowerment?


You can respond to this blog. Let's discuss!


CSS edited with permission from TwiggyTeeluck
Discovering the language of empowerment: for #Arts-and-Health
Add a Comment:
 
:icondaniela-chris:
Daniela-Chris Featured By Owner May 4, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I think it's really great and all you tell is the true.
I had a heart defect decompensation when I was 16 and once one of my friends said something like "yeah, it's bad for heart-sufferers", and I thought, why? This word is associated with very very old and very very ill people, and I'm not ill, I'm just in a bad shape. I told him never to call me that and I never called myself that and with time I got better compensation and got used to it and my heart doesn't disturb me much now. And I know a lot of people who have psychogenic cardialgia and who call themselves "heart-sufferers" and suffer on and on for years growing the stronger and stronger belief they have serious heart condition. I guess psychogenic component made my condition worse and getting rid of it I helped myself.
Reply
:iconaeirmid:
Aeirmid Featured By Owner May 4, 2013   Digital Artist
Thank you for sharing this with me. I love hearing stories of triumph. Hope you'll consider joining our group if you have not already. :hug:
Reply
:icondaniela-chris:
Daniela-Chris Featured By Owner May 5, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks! I've joined already several month ago! It's really great and inspiring group :)
Reply
:iconwdwparksgal:
WDWParksGal Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2013
I do not agree with this 100 %. My husband has type II diabetes, but his doctor refers to him as a "diabetic", ergo the thought that it is an acceptable term. True, he lives with diabetes, it is part of his life as well as his diet, but neither of us would perceive being called a diabetic a negative connotation. I perceive the reference is far different than being called a "tumor" or other such term if a person is dealing with some form of cancer.

Often I will wonder if someone is "smokin' crack" if he/she is doing something weird or thoughtless or has made a "poor" choice. Of course, I think I am being funny because the inference is a ridiculous thought for the people I know, but I certainly wouldn't say he/she is acting "crazy".

Shopping at 2 AM would be quite normal for me actually.

Excellent article. Perception is everything.
Reply
:iconcelticstrm-stock:
CelticStrm-Stock Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Honestly I disagree with what ~diavolinas said about dA not being the place for empowerment. I think it's a perfect place for empowerment. We have a community that prides itself on encouraging and supporting our fellow artists. I've struggled with my weight for my entire life. When someone says "You're fat." My first reaction is to want to smack them upside the head. I know I'm fat, but that weight doesn't define who I am. It isn't a news flash, and it doesn't help change the situation. All it does is tear someone down.

Recently I was inspired to pose for some stock photos. I'm doing it despite my weight. It is a moment in time I will never see again, and I want to capture it. Whether I'm fluffy or not. I have had some wonderful stock providers and watchers encouraging me along the way. That inspires me. That encourages me. They help me find the courage and strength to do it. I won't let my weight keep me from what I want to do. I am doing something about my weight. I've lost 60 lbs since my wedding, and now that I have this goal to pose for more model stock, I'll be even more inspired to stay on my weight loss target.

I have had 10 good comments for every one negative troll out there. My mom always told me that when people feel the need to criticize another person, they are doing so to divert the attention from their own perceived flaws. I suppose that's true, in a way. Let the negativity roll like water off of a duck's back. It doesn't matter in the end. It matters what is in your heart and the light that shines within. Everyone is beautiful in their own way, whether they have weight issues, mental health issues, or anything else. The issues don't define you, your soul does.
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:iconwdwparksgal:
WDWParksGal Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2013
:thumbsup:
On top of other names I've been called on dA, I've been called many types of "fat" names as well. There will always people who type prior to actually thinking a thought through. It is sad, because not only does the negative talk hurt feelings, but there are people who may say things that they regret at a later time.
:hug:
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:iconcelticstrm-stock:
CelticStrm-Stock Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
:huggle: That is so true. I try not to take it to heart, but it's still awful to see. One thing I love about dA is that we get to know each other through communication and art rather than our looks. It lets us get to know the real person, which I love. I think the person within is much more fascinating than the exterior shell. :D
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:iconwdwparksgal:
WDWParksGal Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2013
I totally agree :nod:
Reply
:icondamienmuerte:
DamienMuerte Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
People treated me with "youre epileptic!"


Although I m pretty fine and healthy and I dont have any health issues so far, this is one oif the phrases I hear often, thanks to my group, #Epilepsy-Awarness.

People think I have epilepsy because I opened and lead such a group. They tried to send me into a seizure by sending me dangerous images.

Thats what humanity has become to.


But beeing "not epileptic" i find this phrase "youre epileptic!" offensive. "Beeing epileptic" , to me, is only the moment someone is in a seizure. Except this time, someone with epilepsy just lives with epilepsy. Its not defining someone.

I can not really join this discussion because Im fine and I dont have to deal with issues - but as a nurse I know a lot of people who have some, and who sometimes need empowerment. And of course I know some great people who master their lives with the biggest issues like they are a wizard! I know a man, who had to start over from scratch 3 times. He had a apoplex, recovered - had a very strong seizure - need to recover again, had another apoplex - and recovered again. Three times, he had to learn how to sit, stand, speak, walk again. Others would have had lost faith long ago, but this man was amazing, in how he regained faith and power. I wish I could show people how to be so gorgeous =) But I cant. ._.
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:iconaeirmid:
Aeirmid Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2013   Digital Artist
I really want to thank you for sharing your story. I bet you make a bigger difference than you realize. Nurses are absolutely some of the most amazing people on this planet.
Reply
:icondamienmuerte:
DamienMuerte Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you very much for this empowerment yourself =)) I know that I made a small difference in a game called Howrse.com - there were a lot of seizure triggering images. And where, 3 years ago, all around where those blingee images, more and more often you read "My page is safe for epilepsy sufferers" or "Do not scroll down if you have epilepsy". This little change is mine and it makes me very proud, although its just a small stone, it means much to me. Because I lost two friend who playes that game, to seizures. one of them caused by a image on howrse itself.

I would love to change the world, but I can only change a very very tiny small part. xD But if everybody tries, the world could turn around. You do something very great here, too =) This is a amazing group, I just wish I had more time to create all art and things I wanted to do =( Someone give me a time-stopper Pleassee... xD
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:iconaeirmid:
Aeirmid Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2013   Digital Artist
I know, right? I feel the same way. :XD:
Reply
:icondiavolinas:
diavolinas Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2013
Not sure if DA is the right place for this :) Empowerment. The easiest thing would be to accept oneself with all your characteristics and accept that sometimes things ( even simple things ) go wrong and whatever next time I will try to do it better. There is a difference between saying I am stupid and this did not work but I can improve, or act better next time ... Most of the time it is just a small fragment of 24 hours so you have plenty of time to do something you like and enjoy and everything should be more balanced. The same is vaild for other people. Do not judge and accept them and make them feel comfortable and everybody will have a better time. Hmm, does it make sense, woke up early and did not have a coffe :nirvana: What a miserable day ! just kidding :sing:
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:iconaeirmid:
Aeirmid Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2013   Digital Artist
Totally makes sense, and I agree-- except I think dA is the perfect place for this message! :D
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:icondiavolinas:
diavolinas Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2013
:)
Reply
:iconsandfirex:
SandfireX Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Interesting for me, to stumble upon this kind of subject, on DA, since I'm a male psychiatric nurse! :D That's obiously is a profession where empowerment should be one of the main principles, for both patiŽnt AND staff. Sadly, this ideal theory doesn't really meet with the practical way of things.. Especially because of the way we (humans) generally think and cope with deviant behavior of others, in this (sometimes way too) modern and antisocial society, where putting etikets/labels on foreheads is a primordial thing, 'the language of empowerment' really gets in the danger-/forget- zone.
The statements in this article really emphasize that. e.g.: Someone with a dissociative personality disorder, is already prejudged and labeled, just because of the way people name/view/percept that person. Better is to speak of vulnerabilities, which these people have to learn to cope with (or sometimes even to bear for the rest of their lives).. Although that seems to be difficult. We can't seem to help but classify others (for the obvious structural reason? for personal reasons? Out off self-preserving thoughts? ..who'll tell..) and we use really sticky (sometimes (almost) unremovable and thus you could say it's sometimes more a lifetime sentence then it's a way of helping people AND the society. Nowadays it's doing the exact opposite thing for both) labels, to achieve that, which I deeply regret.

Anyways (sorry for ranting on about this xD), I strongly agree with the statements above and vote for more awareness, realisation and insight about these kind of problematic ways of belief/thinking/behavior, and the consequences, which we all experience these days, through living with each other. We should live together and not 'next to' each other..however the opposite is more and more showing!

"Try to see the person behind the label and not only the label itself (and it's connotations and consequences and ...)"
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:iconaeirmid:
Aeirmid Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2013   Digital Artist
I'm so glad we "met"! Yes, yes, yes, we are thinking along similar lines. Vulnerabilities indeed, and the fact that we are rock stars for moving forward in spite of them. It takes a lot of COURAGE to take a step or try something new, even if that something new means getting to know ourselves a bit better. Thanks for this lovely comment. I hope you will join us also in #Arts-and-Health.
Reply
:iconsandfirex:
SandfireX Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Amen to that ^^ Rest assured, I will! =D
Reply
:iconastralseed:
Astralseed Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2013  Professional General Artist
Some years ago someone told me that it is important to capitalize our names or the word I when we write them. I thought she was silly or what not, but she explained that it was a type of empowerment, a way to not be down on ourselves and show that we are 'larger' rather than 'lower' I guess. I spent a lot of time thinking about what she told me and I have since then been capitalizing names and I's. It seems so small but I think she had a good point. I often find people whom I know are depressed and they for whatever reason do not capitalize I or their name when writing. On the flip side, when I meet confident people they seem to naturally capitalize.
That all aside, I definitely give away my power when I view myself as the toothless girl. It's something I've had a very difficult time coming to terms with and something that cuts me deeply. I'm not really sure how I can empower myself there though I'd love to feel like I can. The best I do in that area is remind myself that I'm still alive so that counts for something.
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:iconaeirmid:
Aeirmid Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2013   Digital Artist
As a non-psychiatrist, lol, my thought would be that you are rather rocking the toothless thing. :D It's difficult to find empowerment in some things, and I didn't mean to imply that we always should. Sometimes things just SUCK. But the empowerment comes from the fact that we can get out of bed and move on to our day, however successfully, in spite (even if not because) of it. :D

You're a rock star and I'm so glad you're my friend. :love:
Reply
:iconastralseed:
Astralseed Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2013  Professional General Artist
I really feel like my agoraphobia is a result of my dental issues. I was fortunate enough that my parents spent the money to buy me a denture, however struggling with emetophobia made it impossible for me to wear it and now it doesn't even fit anymore. The bright side is that people that don't know, don't even realize that I am missing teeth and that gives me some comfort. Though I've started dreading looking into the mirror because my face is no longer 'mine' as a result of losing those teeth. I do what I need to do each day and often avoid people when possible. It's embarassing to be judged, especially by complete stranger and in the completely wrong way. I pray that my children do not inherit my dental genes.
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:iconaeirmid:
Aeirmid Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2013   Digital Artist
:love: I can't even imagine.
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:iconshadowbearmuseum:
SHADOWBEARMUSEUM Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I am having a terrible time verifying " my free copyright " can anybody help me ?
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:iconaeirmid:
Aeirmid Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2013   Digital Artist
I think that site has gone bogus.
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