Words of power: personal empowerment and healing

Parental Alienation

This paper examines instances of ritual use of words in a diverse selection of alternative healing groups in a modern society. These words are distinguished by their users’ belief that they are endowed with a power, an effectiveness, separate from and in addition to their literal meaning. Three specific features of ritual language contribute to its effectiveness: (1) its function as an objectification of power, (2) its transformative functions–especially its metaphoric and metonymic usages, and (3) its performative aspects. This paper argues that one of the key factors in healing illness is mobilizing resources of power, especially enhancing the ill person’s sense of personal empowerment. Ritual language use in alternative healing is one of the foremost elements in this empowerment, because it both represents and objectifies power. Within a belief system in which they are significant, words of power indeed have the power to effect healing.

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