Opening pages of my book Words To Change Your Life

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This book started when I looked up from where the English word “heal” derived. That was after getting an inkling that it might reveal something quite significant about how mental health is treated today.

I just felt that there was something missing from the meaning of how it is used in our modern world.

Something that revealed where we are with mental health problems and recovery today. 

I discovered “heal” derives from the Germanic word heilen that goes back to meaning “whole”.

So to heal means to be whole…

I could see that still worked in its meaning as it is used in a physical sense, such as when someone has a cut or a broken bone and it heals: it has returned to being whole.

That is, it has gone from being in a torn or broken state to returning to “an unbroken or undamaged state”, which is one of the meanings of “whole” in the Oxford Dictionary.

From there I started to wonder how that worked when looking at repairing the mind and the soul from what we today call mental health problems. So I looked up the etymology of the word “psychiatrist”.

It derives from Greek psukhe “soul” and iatros meaning “healer”. Then, “psychiatrist” actually means – and originally meant when it was first used 170 years ago – “soul healer”.

This intrigued me because so much of 21st Century mental health treatment focusses only on the mind. Have we advanced, or was it that our ancestors actually knew more about it all 170 years ago? And even way before then…

In fact, did they know more about all of this until some time around the 1950s? It was around that time that the human soul and spiritual matters were shoved aside for science and when we started to be persuaded that drugs known as medication – and I have this key word “medication” in this book – were the human cure-all?

Certainly if you read such as John Milton’s Paradise Lost or William Shakepeare’s Macbeth and many of the world’s greatest old books, then it seems obvious. Yes, I believe our ancestors did understand a whole lot more about all of this.

Read more and get Words To Change Your Life: A Dictionary For Recovery here.