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Submitted on
February 9, 2013
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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.


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
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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.
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:
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 :)
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.
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.
WDWParksGal Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2013
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.
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
WDWParksGal Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2013
I totally agree :nod:
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. ._.
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.
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