My Pet Peeve With The Word “Wellness”

Over the last decade, or so, I’ve witnessed an explosion in clinic names which include the word ‘wellness’ in their title, such as “Main Street Wellness Centre”. I actually just invented that name as an illustration, but a Google search tells me that there is a clinic with that exact name somewhere in Texas. Marketing in the health industry has likewise taken to the word “wellness” in its catch-phrases, and in fact, the whole industry is often referred to now as “the wellness industry”.

Anyone who has spent any amount of time in conversation with me will know why I take issue with this word. Not that it isn’t accurate for describing a certain aspect of health, but more that it doesn’t encompass the most important part. In the Heilkunst framework of healthcare, there is a very clear distinction between the human sustentive, or sustaining power, and the generative power. The body’s own innate ability to heal itself is a function of the sustentive power, and when we are starting out with a relative state of health to begin with, it does a brilliant job at keeping everything functioning and balanced. All the effort which people put into balancing their diet and lifestyle contributes to the proper functioning of this sustentive power, and to the goal of “feeling well”. Almost the entirety of the natural health industry is focussed on supporting its efficient operation. In this sense, “Wellness” is a very well chosen word in most clinic names.

While Heilkunst very clearly understands the functioning of this sustentive power, and how to properly support it, the higher and deeper goals of health are focussed much more on the other power in the human being — the generative power. The almost miraculous ability we have to create new life, whether in the biological sense, or in other creative realms is a direct byproduct of our generative power. Unlike the sustentive power which keeps us in balance, our generative power is the propulsive force which keeps us moving forward in our life, through progressive stages of growth and development. To be balanced is to have “wellness”, but the capacity to create and move forward is described by a different word — “soundness” (as in “of sound mind and body”).

In a somewhat more technical vein, wellness is what is called “homeostasis”, and soundness is termed “palingenesis”. Notice the endings of “stasis” versus “genesis” which convey two completely different senses of something static as opposed to something transforming and moving. Of course, it takes both aspects to contribute to a complete state of health, but the true essence would be lacking if we only focussed on attaining and maintaing our sustentive power, and not engaging with our generative power. Keep these concepts in mind, the next time you hear yourself talking about health, and notice which half you tend to gravitate towards — I’ll bet that most of the time your focus on health is on wellness way more often than it is on soundness.

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