The Healing Narrative – Choosing a Story that Heals

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June 29, 2016

By Reggie Marra, MA, ACC

Faced with the grief that inevitably accompanies loss – whether due to illness, injury, death or departure of a loved one or any other trauma, what is the story we choose to tell, and how and why do we tell it? Do we tell a story of resistance, victimhood, blame and guilt that relentlessly revisits the trauma – what we might call an illness, injury or victim narrative? Or do we tell a story of acceptance, awareness, connection, gratitude and presence – what we’ll call here a healing narrative?
reggie-pic1The choices we make and the stories we tell emerge from how we see our lives, and have a powerful impact on what we’ll be able to see and do next. We learn our earliest storytelling predispositions from the narratives our parents, guardians and teachers tell when we’re very young. Having just fallen from the tree and broken our 8-year-old arm, are we confronted with an inquisitorial scolding about carelessness, danger and fear, or are we enveloped in a loving embrace that connects with our pain, creates awareness around the risks of exploring while still accepting the inherent value therein, and expresses gratitude that we are, in fact, all right – albeit with a broken arm. These earliest narratives set a thematic undertone that we may not be aware of for years, if ever.

What is your thematic undertone?

Conventional approaches to engaging illness, injury and other loss tend to focus on what is wrong and set out to fix or control it. The illness/injury/loss narrative tells the story of this wrongness, fixing and control. The healing narrative tells the story of who and how we are, what and how we see, and what we do and how we do it when faced with life’s inevitable challenges. Which have you chosen? Which will you choose?
reggie-pic2In Narrative Health Coaching, the healing narrative plays an essential role in both how we coach our clients and how we train our coaches. To the extent that, as health coaches, we are aware of and intimate with the narrative of our own healing journey, we will be better able to guide and assist our clients. We practice what we preach.

Healing narratives are ongoing stories that unfold in unique, nonlinear, spiraling, challenging, insightful and increasingly balanced and inclusive trajectories. They invite us to ask, “What’s really happening right now – what’s true in this moment?” and then provide us the space to interpret this “truth” and tell our story in a way that supports and nurtures our healing. This invitation includes an irrevocable license to revise our telling – to adjust our story – as our awareness expands, as we are more fully present to and accept “what is,” and as we connect more deeply with family and friends – indeed with our common humanity, and much else beyond our often limited sense of self.

What stories do you currently tell, and how do you tell them? Do they serve your healing and growth, or do they keep you stuck? A little bit of both, perhaps? Stay tuned as we explore the healing narrative, along with other related topics, more deeply.

Thanks for reading this far!

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