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Posts tagged ‘narrative’

Nature and the cultivation of shame resilience

Shame has been a difficult topic of discussion. But over the last couple of years, a few people have managed to bring the subject to the forefront of public discourse. One of these people is Brene Brown, a sociologist and researcher who’s extensive work on the subject is presented in her book Daring Greatly and her celebrated TED talk. She exposes the mechanisms of shame, and its psychological and cultural consequences.

Shame is a fundamental belief that I am bad, and has many expressions: I am not strong enough, not good enough, etc. This is categorically different from guilt, which says I did something bad. Shame is a pathology of identity. The treatment for shame, she argues, is the development of shame resilience. This involves:

  1. Recognizing Shame and Its Triggers: we tend to first feel shame physically before our minds realize what it is.
  2. Practicing Critical Awareness: reflect on the implications of cultural and community expectations, and how they affect your identity and self-image.

Illness and shame feed off each other

Illness is a source of deep shame for many, as illness commonly experienced as a failure of the body or some part of its processes. It seems to surface most when illness interferes with socially defined goals of health and ability. People struggling with mobility impairments, fertility, and sexuality might experience shame and vulnerabilities around certain physical (and social) expectations.

Ironically, shame around illness can worsen illness. This is a vicious cycle, a positive feedback loop. Lissa Rankin illustrates the consequences of mindset on health in her brilliant book Mind Over Medicine. Our mental state impacts our physical processes through a number of mechanisms, but most notably through adrenal hormones (i.e. cortisol). Neurotransmitter responses impact hormones, which can affect immunity, blood pressure, and myriad physiological processes. Rankin’s book is complete with evidence from the literature, and cases that illustrate the impact of the mind on the body (including spontaneous remission and nocebo). Feelings of shame, despair, and negative self-worth can place an additional load on the body. Read more

Narrative medicine in the practitioner-client interaction

Nature abhors a vacuum. The less defined or understood a particular condition or disease is by the medical establishment, the more it exposes the explanatory frameworks of the individual practitioner or client. This goes especially for complex issues like chronic infections, metabolic or endocrine imbalances, inflammatory conditions, and degenerative diseases. When there aren’t agreed upon explanations for causes, treatment, or prognosis, it becomes a hazy blank canvas for individuals to paint a story. Is that a helpful story? Narrative medicine is not just a tool in the toolbox. It’s an entire dimension of the healing process that is either working with you or against you.

Addressing narrative is a missing piece in many medical or healing practices, including herbal medicine. Health and illness narratives affect our entire operational framework of a particular health issue. And these are huge blind spots in the practitioner and client relationship. Read more

Thesis Published: Does the cultural use of local plants enable coping with diabetes and generational trauma in Salish tribal communities?

For everyone still subscribed & reading: I know it’s been quiet around here this past Winter & Spring. I’ve been focusing on health, TCOB & funneling all my creative energy and writing to the thesis that follows. This paper completes my graduate program and illuminates the connections between plants, culture, and healing; between social constructions of health, illness and narrative. It’s a case study of an innovative, culturally based ethnobotanical education program, where plants are an integral part of cultural healing, diabetes prevention, and addiction recovery. It’s available full text, so brew some tea, have a read, and let me know what you think. Now, more writing projects to follow. Stay tuned. 

Does the cultural use of local plants enable coping with diabetes and generational trauma in Salish tribal communities?And how might storytelling and narrative be employed to potentiate cultural revitalization and health education programs? A qualitative case study.


Type 2 diabetes disproportionately affects American Indian/Alaska Native populations and, despite clinical nutrition and lifestyle intervention programs, the disease continues to be a rapidly growing problem in tribal communities. Ethnobotanical education programs hold promise for diabetes prevention efforts as they not only provide valuable and applicable information pertaining to individual self-care, but serve to reconnect native people to traditions and cultural heritage. By healing generational trauma and reconnecting people to their communities and cultural heritage, ethnobotanical education programs have the capacity to potentially alleviate the burden of diabetes in tribal communities. A key feature of these programs is the utilization of stories and cultural narratives. Stories relay a worldview of the fundamental interconnectedness of nature and culture and allow individuals to structure new meanings of their experiences of health and illness. What follows is a qualitative case study of the Traditional Foods and Medicines Program at the Northwest Indian Treatment Center in Elma, WA, which utilizes culturally grounded traditional knowledge to educate about health and heal cultural identity.

Keywords: Ethnobotany, diabetes, generational trauma, traditional foods, traditional medicines, cultural traditions.

Full text, non-APA format | Full text, APA format

Introductory Excerpt

In the United States, Type 2 diabetes is rapidly emerging as one of the greatest challenges ever faced by the medical establishment. Its prevalence in the general population is growing, affecting over than 26 million Americans and costing over $200 billion per year. One out of every ten health care dollars is spent on diabetes treatment and it is the leading cause of heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and amputations in the United States today. And the disease is by no means confined to the United States or the first world. Increasingly being recognized as a disease of economic development, more countries are seeing rises in diabetes incidence rates. Research suggests that by 2050, one out of every two people globally will develop diabetes at some point in their life.

Diabetes is clearly a pertinent health issue and some populations—American Indians and Alaska Natives, in particular—have been and continue to be more affected than others. Diabetes is also a relatively new disease in Indian country and was virtually unseen in tribal communities until the 1960’s. Read more