Externalizing language is a concept often used in narrative therapy, and is a way of creating distance between ourselves and our illness(es). There is a lot of research that supports how we think and talk about our illnesses affects our perceived ability to control them, and our overall quality of life and wellbeing.
In this episode we discuss:
How do you talk about your illness? What sort of language do you use? And have you noticed that it affects your thoughts and feelings? I know that for me, it can make a huge difference in how I perceive my illness. And I've noticed much the same for some other people. But what does externalizing language mean? And how can it help? And how do we use it? Those are all questions we're answering in this week's episode of chronically living. I'm Kelsey Harris, a chronic illness warrior and a psychotherapist and training on chronically living and how to make the most of it, we're providing tangible ways to improve the well being of spoonies. So get ready to make the most out of your life. Even with that pesky chronic illness. I just want to thank everyone for tuning in to season two of chronically living. If you've listened to season one, you've probably noticed some big changes in the show formatting and music and really a lot of stuff. So what happened is I took some time between seasons to work on how to produce a better podcast, because ultimately, I want to reach and help more people. And really, what that means is that I want us to work together to figure out ways to improve the quality of our lives. I don't think that any one wave presented by myself or any of my guests is the right or the only way to go about this, I found that a combination of Western and holistic approaches has really been helpful for me. And that's why I'm really emphasizing adding these holistic approaches to all of the medications and treatments that your Western doctors and specialists are already giving you.There's also no one size fits all and all of this, okay. Depending on your illness or illnesses, you may find some things that work really well and others that don't work at all, somewhere maybe in the middle. Some of you may like these approaches, some of you may not like these approaches, or you may like some of them, and you may not like others, and so on. And that's all cool, okay. I've done much of the same as I've been sifting through all of this for the past five years, you know, what holistic approaches are working? I don't really find most supplements work, for example for me, but I know people who do So what I'm saying is that I'm presenting you with some options here, and you can kind of figure out what's going to be most helpful for you. And the truth is, if someone had all the answers, that all of our illnesses would probably be cured. And we wouldn't be discussing this at all. Speaking of cures, that's not what we're doing here. Okay, so we're looking at improving the quality of our lives, and our well being. So a couple definitions, quality of life refers to the standard of health, comfort and happiness experienced by a person. In well being means this state of being comfortable, healthy or happy. And those are definitions from the Oxford dictionary. And I know it sounds like oh, well, if I have a chronic illness, I can't have a good quality of life or any well being. But that's not necessarily true. That's not what I found, in my personal experience. It's not the personal experience of many, many people I know with chronic illness, some of whom have been guests on the show and or will be guests on the show in the future. And it's not the experience found in the research done on chronic illness. So I really just want everyone to keep kind of an open mind as we go on this journey together and sift through all of these different options and ideas available to us. In these solo episodes, where I don't have a guest joining me, I'm going to be focusing on the mental health aspects of chronic illness because that is what I specialize in. I'm a therapist in training, just about to complete my degree with a Master of Arts in counseling psychology, and then I'll be able to be a registered clinical counselor here in British Columbia, Canada. I specialize in working with people with chronic pain and illness and their mental health problems. I typically use acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which you will definitely be hearing more about on the show. However, today's episode we're using a slightly different form of therapy. And I've also been on my own journey with uctv. So that's undifferentiated connective tissue disease and fibromyalgia and that's an ever evolving health experience. What I do know is that my quality of life and well being have improved drastically since my initial diagnosis. Okay, so the first year was tough, and it's only gotten better. But today in this episode, I actually want to share with you something that a client of mine has done and actually I've known several people to do this and it's a way thatA technique I guess, that has a lot of research behind it in the literature. And this is called externalizing. Your own. How we talk about our illness and how we talk about ourselves is important. Our minds and bodies are connected, which is why we see such a co occurrence of depression, anxiety and history of trauma and people with chronic illness. This isn't a coincidence. However, we're not actually talking specifically about the mind body connection today, though it always comes into play. Rather, we're talking about the way language affects our views of ourselves, our illness, and how that in turn affects our well being. We've touched on language twice before in the show in season one with Ashley Jacobson, we were talking about first person language versus illness first language. Ultimately, that decision is up to you. However, researchers, doctors and general public are always encouraged to use person first language. For example, I don't use the term alcoholic when speaking about a client who has substance use disorder. Instead, I would say, a person with substance use disorder. However, some people with substance use disorder might refer to themselves as an alcoholic. And the same goes for people with chronic illness. I'm not. And I'm not here to say which way is right or wrong, because there really is no right or wrong in that conversation. What I am trying to think about is how the use of language affects how we think and feel about ourselves. Sarah Luby, who I talked to in the first episode, the season, we talked about language a little bit. In this case, we both said we prefer to think of ourselves as well ourselves. And we happen to have a chronic illness. Here's a clip from that episode. Lee, I like to say like, I'm Sarah, who happens to have these illnesses versus the sick girl who happens to be named Sarah. If I think and say that I'm a bad or sad or pathetic person because of my illness, then I will likely begin to feel this way. And there's a lot of mental health research to support that. I also want to point out that it's not i'm not necessarily saying that thinking or saying I'm a good or happy or amazing person will automatically changed how I feel. It's certainly a process and it takes some time. It also means we need to actually believe what we are saying. After the break, we're going to talk about how to use externalizing language and what kind of difference it can make for you. Hey, warriors, what if it was possible to get local fresh groceries delivered right to your front door, you could take a deep sea yoga with all that free time. Well instacart gives you unlimited grocery delivery for one low monthly fee. This is definitely better than paying for delivery on all those other apps. Forget that one ingredient you needed to make that super healthy smoothie instacart can deliver to your front door in as little as an hour. You can shop multiple stores getting all your favorites on a single order. instacart even highlights a deal so that you can save money. Get all the products you love hand selected by shoppers based on your preferences. They'll pick the freshest produce handle, keep your eggs safe to find everything you usually buy and get smart suggestions on new items. To get free delivery on your first order over $35 Follow the link in the show notes to let instacart know that we sent you and help to help support the show. With instacart you'll never step foot in the grocery store again. Externally externalizing language means talking about your illness in a way that is separate from you. For example, Fibromyalgia does this or Fibromyalgia says that you can do the same with mental health conditions such as depression, depression tells me or depression gets me to do. It's a way of seeing your illness as being not who you are, but something that you are dealing with. This is a technique used by narrative therapists very often with clients. I've done a bit of work with helping clients use this type of language. But Narrative Therapy is not my specialty. And I've only ever used a under the guidance of one of my supervisors who uses Narrative Therapy fairly often in her practice. In a study from 2010, that looked at the use of externalizing language with adolescents who have type one diabetes, it was found that using this language change their perception of their illness. Specifically, they felt they had more control over their illness had more acceptance of being sick and were less scared of the consequences of their illness. Often how we perceive our illness and Our ability to control our lives directly affects our self management of our illness. And then therefore our well being and quality of life. For me, on the day I'm recording this, I could say find my Fibromyalgia is exhausting today, and unconditioned connective tissue disease made my knuckle swell. This is different than saying I'm exhausted and swollen today. The latter makes it seem like and makes me feel like I can't do anything. That's it. I'm done. It's time to give up. Where's the former makes me realize that while those things are going on, I might take some control back, would a nap help? Or maybe some exercise? Should I take an anti inflammatory or maybe put a whole compress on my knuckle? I have choice in options. Remember, last week when Dr. ferrazzi quartered Viktor Frankl, between stimulus and response, there is space. And in that space you can choose, you can choose how you want to feel about it. This is what he was talking about. And one of the ways to get there is through changing our language. I encourage you to try it and see what it's like for you. Does it make a difference? Remember, the change is slow. So if it doesn't immediately, that's pretty much to be expected. And this is just one way we can start at looking at illnesses differently. I'm interested to hear how this goes for you, or went over for you Even so please take me on instagram in your stories and let me know. Before we go back to our days, I want you to just take a moment to reflect on what you noticed about yourself while listening to this episode. What thoughts and feelings came up for you? What are you noticing about you're noticing Now don't forget to support the show by following the Patreon link in the show notes. I'll have another guest for you on next week. And until then keep making the most of it. Special thanks to Nicole sicura for the original music and attorney Williams.