January 19, 2015

Narrative Medicine: the Use of History and Story in the Healing Process

I am back in the saddle, so to speak, returning to active work on completing my certification with Birthing From Within! This book is one of the required readings for the Inanna section of the process; it was an amazing read. It applies to so many parts of my life. I'd love to give it to several family members to read, and I know I will use the lens it provides in my work, and in my personal life. Narrative Medicine: The Use of History and Story in the Healing ProcessNarrative Medicine: The Use of History and Story in the Healing Process by Lewis Mehl-Madrona

p. 6 "We can be multicultural, using several different anthologies of belief. When we compare and contrast different knowledge systems, we learn what we prefer and how practical a given approach is for our particular context."

Description of study on which doctors get sued & which don't on p. 8 - wow!

p. 15 "We use survival curves and statistics to talk about disease as if it were independent of the people who have it and their stories. This so-called natural history approach is grounded in the idea that the patient and her family and culture have no relevance to survival. It usually ignores the stories of the 3 percent a the far end of the survival curve who live much longer than the mean."

P. 36 "to be a good criminal, drug addict, schizophrenic, or gang member is often more accessible than achieving the American dream."

P. 47 "I am in awe of how the mainstream has stripped nature of its power. I can't understand why so many humans insist on being so isolated and alone. Perhaps it makes them feel powerful."

P. 88 "unlike conventional medicine, narrative medicine is postmodern. It cannot be sure of itself. It relies upon diversity to sort out what works and what doesn't. It is forever a mixture of all the voices that song it into being."

P. 101 "what if we move away from medicine as a natural science and toward medicine as a systems science ...?"

P. 171 "We can't assume that the information we think we are getting from spirit communication is correct. Even when I do things that could be called psychic, I don't assume I am psychic. I just happened to stumble into a conversation with non-physical entities. I could distort or mishear. I could misinterpret. I could be hearing someone else's conversation. My purpose is to start a dialogue. It is through the dialogue that meaning emerges, not through my actions or knowledge or expertise."

P.183 "I prefer the underlying assumption of narrative medicine (that we can change) to those of conventional biomedicine (that we are prisoners of our genetics and our biology.)"

P. 204 "Knowledge ... Cannot be separated from the conversation going on between the people involved. Knowledge is not separate from society."

What I am doing (especially as a doula, but also as a childbirth mentor and as a religious educator) is making connections between all the different narratives present in parents' lives. I connect/interpret the medical narrative to the personal growth narrative to the family narrative, the mom's narrative with the dad's narrative, etc.

Also, the healing process he is describing is a process that always starts with acceptance - that this is how things are and that we aren't controlling what will happen, simply doing what appears to be the next right thing to do.

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