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You Are What You Say: The Proven Program That Uses the Power of Language to Combat Stress, Anger, and Depression

You Are What You Say: “The Proven Program That Uses the Power of Language to Combat Stress, Anger, and Depression” is not just another fluffy self-help book. Its authors, Matthew Budd, M.D. and Larry Rothstein, Ed.D (forward by Patch Adams, M.D.) take us step by step through a proven program of learning, observation, and change, which can alter the way we live our lives. Their premise is that language determines how we feel both physically and emotionally; when we change the words we use, we can improve our health and our lives.

The book is based on a wellness program Budd developed while at the Harvard Community Health Plan, a Harvard Medical School HMO in Boston. It grew out of his own feeling that, as a physician, he was only given half the tools he needed to heal people. He found the missing pieces when he returned to a question posed to him by his grandmother when he was a child: “Why are you sick?” As he asked his own patients this question, he learned that emotions must be considered because emotions impact health.

An initial self-test helps you evaluate your own beliefs about self-efficacy, social ease, and emotional skills and how each affects your well being. Chapters are organized thematically; Budd shows us the fundamental connection between our emotional and physical health: we have bodies, and thus are animals, yet we often try, to our detriment, to separate our bodies from our emotions. He looks at how we carry our history in our bodies, and then moves into how our language usage impacts our well being. In the end, he brings these thoughts together and again has us take the same self-test to see how our awareness has changed.

Each chapter includes a helpful summary and exercises that deepen our understanding of the body/mind/emotion/language connection. Woven throughout are the stories of four of Budd’s patients, and how they came to the program, began the process of self-observation, and implemented what they learned.

The program Budd outlines is not a quick fix, nor is it an easy journey to undertake. It is, however, rich in rewards. It is best worked through slowly, with plenty of time to do each exercise and reflect upon it. As he says, “Be prepared for surprises. This book is unlike any self-help book you’ve ever read. It describes a program that is a unique synthesis of ancient wisdom and new insights into health and healing. It builds on medicine’s recent breakthroughs regarding the mind-body connection, but moves dramatically beyond them to help you learn how literally to create a new mind and build a new body.”

(Crown Publishing, 2001; paperback: 288 pages; list price: $15)

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