Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Putting cancer into words: Stories as medicine for women attending the Healing Journeys conference
by Caldwell, Philipa Ann Redlich, Ph.D., Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, 2008, 287; 3307551
Abstract (Summary)

This study explored the psychological phenomenon of feeling emotionally healed after listening to a personal story. Specifically, it described the experiences of 12 women touched by cancer or chronic illness who identified themselves as feeling psychologically healed by the personal stories presented at the Healing Journeys Cancer as a Turning Point (CTP) conference. The participants included a blues singer, a teacher, nurses, psychologists, and cancer activists. Aged between 32 and 73, they lived in California, North Carolina, and the Northeastern United Sates. Using organic inquiry, a research approach designed to study transformative change, the researcher engaged the participants as co-researchers in a communal project. During semistructured interviews, participants were asked to describe their experiences of cancer and chronic illness and to create a metaphor about the story-healing experience at the CTP conference. They had the opportunity to share their experiences on a private website in order to reflect on them as a community. The findings include their stories, personal metaphors, and reflections as well as the researcher's own narrative about pursuing the topic. The participants described the importance of having a means to psychologically integrate their experiences of illness, the usefulness of survivors' stories as vehicles for healing, the secure container provided by this conference, and the ease of processing emotions in the familiar environment of a theater. They reported gaining qualities such as confidence, resiliency, understanding, and a sense of accompaniment. Although openly subjective, these findings present a narrative understanding to healthcare professionals about the lives of patients and the healing potential of this intervention. Further research to explore the use of personal stories as a way to process trauma is indicated. The discussion of stories as the contents of human core consciousness suggests new areas of study for transpersonal psychologists interested in the study of consciousness and transformation.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Palmer, Genie
Commitee: Clements, Jennifer, Lagana, Luciana
School: Institute of Transpersonal Psychology
Department: Residential Transpersonal Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 69/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Womens studies, Psychotherapy
Keywords: Cancer, Ethnography, Healing Journeys, Narrative therapy, PTSD, Stories, Transformation, Women, Women's health
Publication Number: 3307551
ISBN: 978-0-549-56494-2
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