Words that heal

Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.

There once was a physician who had twin daughters. One grew up to become a psychiatrist. The other developed schizophrenia as an undergraduate. She poured out her anguish through words with pen on paper. Eventually, she became a published poet. Of the two daughters, which one was the healer?

In order to diagnose, a psychiatrist must learn to listen to the patient. Now there are many practicing psychiatrists who base their pharmacological treatments on symptoms alone. Medication regimens are adjusted based upon the patient’s response to the drug. Sometimes the dose is increased to enhance the effect of the drug; other times the drug is discontinued because of untoward side effects. Much of pharmacological treatment comes down to trial and error. Many times medication can help, but in the end a pill cannot heal a soul.

Freud, regarded by many as the father of psychiatry, once wrote: “Wherever I go, I find a poet has been there first.”

Throughout the centuries poets have pursued the art of crying out, of putting pen to paper (or stylus to papyrus), crafting words as conduits to transmit their anguish, their deepest longings, their joys, their sorrows. Many have written in part to help themselves to heal. When we read their words, we enter in to their anguish, their longings, their joy and their sorrow; and when we do, we ourselves may experience some degree of healing as well.

It doesn’t take a college degree to become a poet. One must only open oneself up to the suffering of the soul, to face one’s demons, to record the emotional truth of the spiritual state, to capture the passion (and in this instance I refer to the root meaning of that word: to suffer) in a few brief lines which may, if one is lucky, last for an eternity.


3 comments on “Words that heal

  1. daverls54 says:


    That’s a great line of Freud’s!

    And a great blog! Well said!



  2. Stacy Drew says:

    Hello Mr. Maurer,
    My name is Stacy and I am a Physician Assistant in my first year of practice. Currently working in a primary care setting in a small corner of “no where” American rural North Carolina…HTN and DM at its finest!!
    I’ve read some of your article in JAPA and have been following your blog. I particularly enjoyed your “Words that Heal ” post, as I have been struggling with understanding the “art” of medicine, and I use writing as my outlet…hoping to be a full-fledged writer one day when I grow up :).
    I hope you don’t mind, but I was so inspired by that post that I used a quote from it in one of my most recent blog posts – I of course gave you proper credit!!
    If you are so inclined and don’t my losing about 5min of your life that you won’t get back…here is the most recent installment of my…crap-o-la …



    Stacy D.

    • BTM says:

      Thanks for commenting, Stacy.
      I enjoyed your “Floppy Ears” piece.
      We had to put a dog down last fall — not an easy thing to do.
      Keep writing!

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