The Power of Story in Intentional Healing


Many people come to the Commonweal Cancer Help Program with broken stories. They feel that their whole experience of who they are and the meaning of their lives has been shattered by their cancer diagnosis and treatment. One of the most important things that often happens in the Cancer Help Program is what we could call “story repair.” People discover a new way to tell their stories that makes them feel whole again.

What this means is that if you take the time to tell yourself – or others – your own story, with honesty and integrity and courage – you will find your own story becoming a teaching story that can help you find your way toward intentional healing.

In the Cancer Help Program we ask participants to write an autobiographical letter before they come. We learn more from these letters than from anything else they can put on paper. Many participants tell us how useful it was for them to write their stories. It gave them a new perspective on where they are at this critical time in their lives.

Who are you? is the question that our stories answer. That is, in some respects, the most critical question of all in intentional healing. Are you primarily identified with your body? Are you primarily identified with your feeling? Are you primarily identified with your mind? Or are you primarily identified with something beyond body, emotions, and mind? There is no judgment in this – but it matters. Almost all of us have mixed identifications with most or even all of the above. Your primary identification may also shift over time – as mine has.

The only real intentional healing that matters is intentional healing for you. Intentional healing cannot be abstracted from your story and your life experience. So in everything that follows, remember that. We can – and must – talk conceptually about common pathways to intentional healing – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual paths and practices that may help you. But if these paths and practices do not draw you in – do not strike you as truly yours to follow – ignore them. They are not your way.


Header photo courtesy of Callanish.