Monday, August 08, 2011

Healing the Mind through the Power of Story

[Excerpted from the Hero Soul e-newsletter on personal development]

Inside This Issue:
1. Healing the Mind Through the Power of Story
2. Interview with CBC Radio on the hero mindset
3. Noteworthy Events

1. Healing the Mind Through the Power of Story

"History is written by the winners, but story allows everyone’s perspectives to be told, even those who are conquered.” – Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona

I’ve come across a real gem of a book this summer which has made a strong impression on me and which I wanted to share with you today:

By Lewis Mehl-Madrona, M.D., Ph.D.

The ‘Aha!’ for me in this book is that stories shape the brain – literally. Molecular geneticists are discovering that ‘social experience modifies our genes’ and ‘reshapes our DNA moment by moment.’ (Social experience being primarily the exchange and enactment of stories.)

In fact, Dr. Melh-Madrona suggests, “On the whole, social relationships and experience are perhaps more powerful in changing our brains than drugs.”Certainly, a number of so called ‘antidepressants’ out on the market prove no more effective than placebos.

There are positive and negative consequences to this story. One of the downsides is that often times a person experiencing illness enters the traditional healthcare system and is given a story: bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, clinical depression, ALS, MS, chronic pain such as fybromyalgia, etc.

Sadly, what often happens next is that when the individual is institutionalized to receive ‘care’, the entire medical team and support staff’s focus centers around empowering the story rather than the person. Healthcare turns to health-scare and instead of healing, the condition is often prolonged and/or exacerbated.

The upside here is that through narrative psychiatry and community/group storytelling, through collaborative interaction, empowering stories, or counter narratives, can be developed for dis-empowering the bad stories and empowering the person (vs. patient) to heal.

Dr. Melh-Madrona is asserting that many genetically linked diseases can, over time, be better managed, mitigated, and even transformed into healing success stories through the power of storytelling in conjunction with medical treatment, especially through collaborative community interaction.

In his book, he gives example after example of empowering stories he’s shared with clients suffering from various illnesses and their positive transformation from enacting these stories and attending community healing circles.

The great thing about healing circles is that anyone can start one up in their own community, consisting of a small group of people who are dedicated to each other’s healing. The group meets regularly in a circle. Each member shares their story by holding a ‘talking stick’ which is passed around the group. The stick is passed only when one feels heard and they’ve fully expressed what they have to say.

Nobody else can speak when a group member is holding the stick, which reinforces active listening among all members and activates group healing through narrative expression. Also, when a group member expresses a challenge, the rest of the group can pitch in by sharing whatever they feel they can offer: prayers, massages, reiki, advice, stories of overcoming similar challenges, etc.

A good takeaway from this book, is that if you find yourself in a rut, be it personal or professional, examine yourself and start replacing your negative stories with empowering ones, and consider joining a support group to express your stories in a nurturing environment. One of the reasons why Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous have been so consistently successful is the group sharing and camaraderie in community that occurs on a regular basis.

I highly recommend this book for all helping professionals and anyone searching for stories to heal the mind.

* One caveat the author notes is that “people taking psychiatric medications should never stop taking them abruptly, as serious withdrawal symptoms can occur.” Also, the advice given here and in the book should not be used to treat a serious ailment without consulting a qualified medical professional first.

If you’re more business and professional development minded, looking for ways to accelerate your business, organizational, or career success, than I highly recommend reading Peter Guber’s book:

Guber, CEO of Mandalay and former chairman of Sony Pictures, is a world-class storyteller who gives plenty of business and organizational storytelling examples of how stories can be used effectively to influence, inspire, and innovate. Another summer favorite of mine and a real entertaining read!

I wish you a successful storied life and encourage you to Carpe Fabula (Seize the Story!).

To YOUR story success,

Sharif Khan
Writer, Author of “Psychology of the Hero Soul”

Please visit and “Like” my new Facebook Author Fanpage!

2. Interview with CBC Radio on the hero mindset

CBC Radio recently interviewed me on their Ontario Morning show special profiling local heroes making difference. In this interview, I share insights from my book, Psychology of the Hero Soul, on the hero mindset. Here’s the link to the podcast:

Some really inspiring stories of courage, conviction, and compassion…and some positive news for a change! Worth listening and sharing with friends and family.

3. Noteworthy Events

VIVA LAS VEGAS! Author 101 University is coming to Vegas in October for its renowned publishing success course.

Bring a friend for FREE at Author 101 University and save $100 off admission. Go to and put in code EARLYBIRD. (Limited-time offer!)

Ideal for: aspiring and established authors, writers, coaches, speakers and independent publishers.

If you’ve ever dreamed of writing and publishing a book, or if you’re an author looking to fast-track your book publishing success, this is the place to be!

Click the link to watch videos of inspiring author success stories: 

LEGENDARY Screenwriting & Story Guru, SYD FIELD, is coming to Toronto September 24-25 to teach his world-famous 2-Day MASTER CLASS. For details visit:

Recommended for story writers, screenwriters, transmedia storytellers, filmmakers, and novelists who love film.

I will be attending this event and look forward to networking with fellow creatives. Hope you can join me.

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