Therapeutic Speech for Cancer-Related Fatigue

Barbara Ziegler-Denjean

Last update: 06.03.2020

When treating cancer-related fatigue (CRF) with anthroposophic therapeutic speech, the task is to aerate, move, widen and imbue with rhythm. Respiration is the archetype of all rhythmic processes (1, chapter 5.3). Human beings alternate between connecting more and less with their body as they inhale and exhale. Every inhalation is a latent awakening, a coming to oneself. Every exhalation is a partial falling asleep (2). A person’s life processes become impaired if this breathing process is persistently disturbed. When inhalation cannot work sufficiently in a person’s metabolic functions, the result can be lack of vitality, chronic fatigue, anxiety and depression, preventing the person from joyfully taking hold of their will-organization (1, chapter 10.1). This is often caused by one-sided consciousness processes, combined with shallow high breathing and corresponding muscle tension in the shoulder girdle.

Therapeutic aspects

Since every inhalation disorder is based on inadequate exhalation, the person should first practice using up all the air in their lungs when speaking, then inhale a fresh breath of air together with the next impulse to speak, making a spontaneous, sweeping arm movement downward from high up (3). With increased exhalation, the state of fatigue and heaviness can be released and the organism and its functions can be refreshed through deeper inhalation. Air brings physical and mental relief – similar to how objects float on the surface of water when they are filled with air. In this way, people can feel relieved when they learn to overcome heaviness through the way that they breathe and are then able to take hold of their body anew.

Rhythm and dynamics (4)

This practicing of complete exhalation can be followed by work on rhythmic texts, which are first paced with the feet and then accompanied by corresponding arm gestures of contraction and expansion. Rhythmic elements related to breathing have both a releasing and an invigorating effect. In dynamic speaking this process is enhanced by initially speaking very slowly and quietly, then successively faster and faster. Attention must be paid to nimble but nevertheless very precise articulation of sounds and syllables. This can be done with any exercise, such as with a poem or when reading an everyday text aloud. Speeding up the pace of speaking and forming each consonant rapidly has a stimulating effect on a person’s blood circulation and willpower.
Well suited are all rhythms that begin with a short syllable, because they promote the impulse to inhale and strengthen the sense of taking hold of one’s own body.

The tip of the tongue as a revitalizer

Of great importance in cases of tiredness and exhaustion is the tip of the tongue: it always articulates against gravity when it shapes sounds on the upper front palate. Therefore, during diagnosis and therapy it is important to make sure that the lower jaw does not replace any tongue movements and that the relevant sounds are not articulated with the wide part of the tongue. The tongue, which is both a muscle and a sensory organ due to its ability to move and taste, can be used as a psychosomatic organ to treat CRF in very differentiated ways. The tip of the tongue becomes particularly active when shaping the sounds “L” “N” “D” “T” (5).
These consonants can be practiced separately or in various exercises – always with conscious and joyful lifting of the tongue and with focused and agile, but distinct, activity.

Therapeutic recommendations

  • The person’s breath can be used up well if the sound “F” is vigorously spoken first once, then twice, then thrice, lunging slightly and making forward thrusting arm movements until all the air is used up. 

  • This can be succeeded by the following declamatory breathing exercise , which is spoken accompanied by the hands and arms moving downwards from above, sending the words deeper and deeper from line to line, lowering the pitch and stimulating deeper exhalation. (note: Rudolf Steiner’s speech exercises are highly detailed in their correspondence to linguistic and physiological laws, while their meaning is irrelevant).

    Fulfilling goes
    through hoping
    goes through longing
    through willing
    willing flows
    in wavering
    wails in quavering
    waves veiling
    waving breathing
    in freedom
    freedom winning

    Erfüllung geht
    Durch Hoffnung
    Geht durch Sehnen
    Durch Wollen
    Wollen weht
    Im Webenden
    Weht im Bebenden
    Webt bebend
    Webend bindend
    Im Finden
    Findend windend
    Kündend (5, p. 16, Creative Speech p. 36)

    It can help to imagine a waterfall that is plunging into a valley from ever greater heights and is taking the sounds, the voice and the breath with it. Speaking in this way strengthens each inhalation, bringing invigoration and refreshment.

  • Short sayings and poems can support the process through their images or stimulating rhythms:  

    Throw your weight into the deep!
    Man forget! Man forget!
    Divine is the art of forgetting!
    If you would fly, if you would feel at home in the heights:
    Throw your heaviest into the sea!
    Divine is the art of forgetting! (Friedrich Nietzsche)

    Joyful courage inspires us,
    we conquer the weight of the earth,
    we stoke the embers in the darkness,
    we ignite the light in the blackness! (Hedwig Diestel)

  • Rhythmic texts are usually accompanied by corresponding gestures or steps:
    Narrow and wide, narrow and wide, that my heart may be free (Barbara Ziegler-Denjean)
    In breathing there are two blessings:
    Drawing in air and exhaling it again;
    One constrains and the other refreshes;
    So wondrously our life is mixed.
    So, thank God when He presses you,
    And thank Him when He releases you again. (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

    Dynamic speaking can be prepared by imagining a surface of water where the wind is stirring up waves.

  • The patient begins with a long “L”, spoken slowly with a broad tongue, followed by continuous intensification with an agile tongue and a light voice: lalle, lallelalle, lallelallelalle, lallelallelallelallealleallealleallealleallealleallealle, etc., until all their breath is used up.

  • Then the following speech exercise, in which the tip of the tongue learns to dance and do gymnastics. “L” helps to overcome gravity using numerous playful repetitions (6):

    Lulling leader limply
    liplessly laughing
    loppety lumpety lackety lout

    Lalle Lieder lieblich
    lipplicher Laffe
    lappiger lumpiger laichiger Lurch (5, p. 21–22, Creative Speech p. 41)
  • The dynamic effect is further intensified when the person claps the rhythm with their hands, clapping faster and faster:

    He who takes
    long advice
    comes too late
    with the deed,
    he who swiftly
    and starts –
    wins! (Friedrich Rückert)

    Immediate effect lasting several hours. With about 24 therapy sessions and regular practice (10–20 minutes daily): lasting improvement.


  1. Denjean-von Stryk B, von Bonin D. Therapeutische Sprachgestaltung. Chap. 5.3: The Breathing Human Being. 2nd ed. Stuttgart: Verlag Urachhaus; 2003. English translation: Denjean-von Stryk B, von Bonin D. Anthroposoophical Therapeutic Speech. Edinburgh: Floris Books; 2003.
  2. Denjean-von Stryk B. Sprich, dass ich dich sehe. 2nd ed. Stuttgart: Verlag Freies Geistesleben; 2010, p. 23.
  3. Steiner R, Steiner-von Sivers M. Sprachgestaltung und dramatische Kunst. GA 282. 4th ed. Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag; 1981, p. 360–361. English translation: Steiner R, Steiner-von Sivers M. Creative speech. The formative process of the spoken word. reprint Forest Row: Rudolf Steiner Press; 2013.
  4. Slezak-Schindler C. Vom Leben mit dem Wort. Fünf heilende Wirksamkeiten der Sprache und des Sprechens. Dornach: Verlag am Goetheanum; 1992.
  5. Steiner R, Steiner-von Sivers M. Methodik und Wesen der Sprachgestaltung. GA 280. 4th ed. Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag; 1983. English translation: Steiner R, Steiner-von Sivers M. Creative speech. The formative process of the spoken word. Reprinted 1st ed. Forest Row: Rudolf Steiner Press; 2013.
  6. Steiner R. Eurythmie als sichtbare Sprache. GA 279. 4th ed. Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag; 1979, p. 69. English translation: Steiner R. Eurythmy as visible speech. London: Rudolf Steiner Press; 2020.

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