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‘Our Spiritual Journey’ is an article about how our mindset can work for us or against us when we are struggling with a chronic health condition. It is inspired by a interview from the Abundant Energy Summit, hosted by Nikki Gratrix, I listened to with Joan Borysenko.

This article was intended to be quite specific buthas become a general article that I will need to update and expand on over the coming weeks as it has led to the discovery of new concepts and theories such as the four phases of chronic illness and Narrative Medicine.  I have introduced these concepts below.

Joan Borysenko suffered with burn out and what she found was this:

I really need to be particularly curious because it’s a guide for me. It’s guide to a life that is enter, more effective, and more in spiritual alignment with what my own heart believes. And so I look at burnout as a spiral guidance. It’s a form of spiritual guidance. It’s not an indication that there’s something wrong with me.

We have to forgive ourselves for burning out. Forgiveness is so important.

Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, people who tend to helplessness have a pessimistic way of telling themselves the story of their life. So you have to change your story.

What story are you going to tell yourself that is leading you to always burn yourself out?

The interview mentioned the four phases of chronic illness which is discussed below.

The Four Phases Of Chronic Illness

A summary discussing the concept of the four phases of chronic illness can be found here. The below is an extract from the updated, 2012 edition of The Chronic Illness Workbook: Strategies and Solutions for Taking Back Your Life by Patricia A. Fennell

Unlike the traditional medical approach, the four-phase model does not assume that you will eventually be cured. Instead it seeks to integrate your illness into a different but meaningful life. If you do not achieve illness integration, the chances are that you will suffer repeated failures at each relapse and change in your illness. The four-phase model pursues specific treatments to eliminate or reduce your disease symptoms, but unlike the traditional medical approach, it also uses palliation as an active treatment option.

Palliation is the reduction of suffering. Often health-care workers believe they are providing palliation when they reduce physical symptoms. But true palliation actually includes the relief of suffering in the psychological and social aspects of the patient’s life as well as in the physical aspects. In the four-phase model, palliation includes interventions to improve your psychological and social well-being, and when possible to improve the situation for those around you.

I particularly like this quote from the above link:

Medical specialists in this model don’t treat from outside but become part of a holistic system. They become partners, if you will, with you and your family.

This concept of the four phases led me to find the concept of narrative medicine (it amazes me how most things tie in together so nicely, and often come back to some key points such as self-compassion)

Narrative Medicine

Narratives—especially patient narratives—incorporate the question of causality and thus foster an understanding of the patient’s illness perception. In the words of Greenhalgh and Hurwitz, “Narrative provides meaning, context, perspective for the patient’s predicament. It defines how, why, and what way he or she is ill. It offers, in short, a possibility of understanding which cannot be arrived at by any other means.”

There is a fantastic paper on Narrative Medicine here which we found truly inspiring that can be accessed here. Here is just one great point made in the paper:

narratives can have a healing effect—both in listening to the stories of others and in telling one’s own story. Concrete evidence for this has been given especially in writing about illness and traumatic events. Hatem and Rider, for example, cite clinical studies that show significant changes in physiologic parameters, such as improvement of lung functions in asthma patients or decline of disease activity in patients with rheumatic arthritis due to writing about personal stressful experiences

Our Spiritual Journey: Conclusion

There are certainly things many of us need to consider when we are suffering with a chronic health condition and our mindset/psychology is one of the most important.

A great example of this as discussed in Viktor Frankl.

This is why we need to spend time with our clients, to understand their narrative, their perceptions, the current resources that have available to them. Only with this knowledge can we as coaches/clinicians/practitioners truly help.