Helping Our Children Heal Themselves With Verbal First Aid [Guest Post]

By Judith Acosta, LISW

The New Philosophy and The New Medicine

The science of healing has come a long way over the last two hundred years and the rate of change shows no evidence of slowing down. In fact, science is changing so fast in some circles that it is hard to imagine what the future will hold for us. Nowhere is this change more evident than in our understanding of medicine and the nature of the human organism.

Research is rapidly leading us to the conclusion that we are not who we think we are.

Most of us live under the assumption that we are our jobs, our assets, or our social status. We behave as if we were merely bodies, isolated molecular configurations randomly bumping into other bodies.

But the science and the art of Verbal First Aid is leading us elsewhere.

There is an old expression: The scientists climbed the mountain and found the mystics waiting there. It seems we are circling the crests.

For according to the latest research in epigentics, we are not just moving collections of “mass.” We are very elegant, interconnected beings of energy.

We are not just affected by thought, we are continually evolving manifestations of it.

As the work of Bruce Lipton has shown, we are influenced by our own thoughts (which are composed of words, ideas and images) at the most fundamental level of existence: DNA.

Since the 1950’s, biologists have assumed that DNA “controls” the manner in which life manifests and evolves via the nucleus. But in Lipton’s research we are shown that cells can live for months without their nuclei. In fact, they continued to interact with and react to their environments. The question that faced Lipton and now us is: If it isn’t our genes, then what is controlling cellular behavior?

What he concluded was that DNA responded by making choices based on perception of the environment.

What this means is that we are not what we think we are, we are what we think.

And if we are what we think, that means that the images that fill our minds’ eyes, the beliefs we hold dear, the way we feel and receive input from our surroundings impact the way we heal in a vivid and immediate manner.

This simply shocking truth is why Verbal First Aid—the therapeutic use of words to facilitate physical healing—works the way it does. This is why Verbal First Aid is so terribly important, particularly with children, who are far more suggestible and vulnerable than adults.

How Words Really Are Medicine: The ABC’s of Verbal First Aid

There are three principles operating in Verbal First Aid:

  1. Energy moves all of us at the cellular and genetic level.
  2. What you think is as important as what you do. It is a fundamental operating system of all life.
  3. Therefore: Words can harm and words can heal.

With Verbal First Aid we use words to heal. And the foundation for every one of those words is rapport.

Rapport is composed of Authority, Believability, and Compassion (ABC’s):

Authority: Whom do we follow when we are running out of a burning building? A fire fighter. That is our natural instinct and it is a good one. We are more likely to let ourselves be guided by a person we believe has authority and experience. When we are using Verbal First Aid, especially with children, we want to have that same benevolent and calm authority, which is communicated with both our words (“I see your boo-boo. I know what to do. I’m going to help you.”) and our body language (assertive, assuring).

Believability: Our truthfulness is a critical component of rapport. In this case it means simply acknowledging the truth of the situation of the moment. It does not mean predicting or pretending to know. When we lie (by saying, for instance, “everything’s fine” when it is clearly not fine), we lose rapport and, in turn, the chance to guide someone to a calmer, more healing state.

Compassion: This is our intention to be of service and the manifestation of our unconditional love (even with someone we don’t know). Our suggestions are received and followed because the person to whom we are speaking believes we care about him.

Rapport is often already established with a child of your own or with a child you know, but it’s never a bad idea to reassert that bond: “Daddy’s here, doll. I’ve got you and I’m going to help you.”

Once you have (re-)established rapport, you can begin to lead the child with healing suggestions.

Verbal First Aid Suggestions

One fellow by the name of Richard came up to me after a talk and told me what a physician had told him after he’d been examined and diagnosed with advanced hearing loss and some tinnitus. “You’re going to go crazy. We got studies!”

There is even a name for this sort of poor prescribing: Iatrogenic Illness or illness that has literally been prescribed (suggested) by a physician.

We are being given suggestions all the time, sometimes by the media (“Stay thirsty, my friend…”) and sometimes by well-meaning but misled medical personnel. It’s very common to hear before a procedure, “this is going to hurt,” or “you’re going to feel nauseated when you wake up.”

Verbal First Aid is the antidote and replacement to all of them—for you and for your children.

Suggestions can take many forms but there are basic groups:





Direct suggestions are simple declarative statements and can be either negative or positive. “Stand up straight!” “Sit comfortably.” “You will feel sleepy.” “You’re hungry.” “You will not think of a pink elephant.” (That last one is a perfect example of how negative suggestions can be turned on themselves and be received in the opposite manner…who didn’t think of a pink elephant when they read that?)

Indirect suggestions are far more complicated and are usually more subtle, “I wonder how long it will take you to think of how comfortable and sleepy you can feel as you sit here…”

With children, who are naturally more suggestible than adults—even in normal conditions—suggestions can take either form depending on the child, his age, his temperament (rebellious or obedient), and his emotional state.

What we say can do more than change a frown to a smile—it can generate a cascade of chemicals that can turn off pain, reduce inflammation, or help stop bleeding.

A young girl I knew when I worked as a school social worker slipped, fell and twisted her ankle. The swelling began immediately. When I reached her I knelt beside her. She was in pain and was also terribly embarrassed because it happened in the hall as class was changing, right in front of all her friends.

I looked at her and held her hand as I said, “That was a hell of a new dance step!” She started to laugh just a little, then winced with the pain. I took a scarf I had and wrapped it around her ankle and told her, “Remember playing in the snow this winter? Remember how cool your hands and feet were as you pulled off your gloves and boots? Remember that feeling of cool all the way down deep?” She nodded. “Well, you can remember that coolness in your ankle now as I put this scarf around it to support it and as you do, it can start to feel better.”

In a few moments, she put her arm around my shoulders and said, “I wanna get up.”  By the end of the day, she was not only feeling better, but was not carrying around any shame. When some of her classmates teased her, she replied, “Bet you can’t dance like that!”

Another example is a little girl I know who fell and scraped her head against a cabinet. It wasn’t a life-threatening wound, but it bled profusely and it scared her. I got a clean towel and pressed it against the scrape as I said a few simple words. “I’m here. That’s quite a boo-boo.”

She cried. “Yes!”

“And it’s bleeding,” I added. “That’s good!!”

She tilted her head, still crying, but curious enough to shift attention away from fear. “Well,” I continued, “that means the blood is cleaning the wound so you can get better faster.” The tension began to drain from her face. Then I told her a story of another young girl who had been hurt and had stopped the bleeding all by herself and suggested to her that she, too, can stop the bleeding right now. Within a few minutes, she was able to stop the bleeding so that by the time she arrived at the doctor’s office for treatment, truly the worst was over.

Suggestions can be commanding without being commands. When we offer a child suggestions in these ways, we are doing Verbal First Aid with them, but we are also giving them the opportunity to choose how they are going to receive an event. In helping them to shift the way they hold or perceive an injury or an illness or a disappointment, we are helping them to gain mastery over their own minds and biological responses. And perhaps that is the most helpful thing of all.

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