INTRODUCTION: WHY REFLECT?
In one of the most despairing lines in western literature, a character in Henrik Ibsen’s play When We Dead Awaken (1899) cries, “When we dead awaken, we find that we have never lived.” It’s a feeling even more common today than in Ibsen’s time: a disconnect from who we are, a sense of being so consumed with doing that we lose touch with being.
By the end of the 20th century, that separation from the self, and the resulting impairment of communication and empathy, were raising well-founded concerns — not only with respect to dealing with illness as a health professional or as a patient, but also in our experience of daily life. The well-established connection between stress and physical illness, together with the growing popularity of natural remedies, sparked scientific research into reflective practices people have used for centuries to foster such qualities as clear thinking, empathy, and self-knowledge. Those studies suggest that varied forms of reflection, including reflective writing, storytelling, and delving into thought-provoking texts, can indeed be effective. (See lists of studies and resources for reflective writing and studies and resources for narrative medicine.)
This website draws on that research to offer suggestions for best practices as well as links to resources provided by universities and medical schools. It suggests works of literature and film you might want to explore, as well as ideas for publishing your own personal essays if you’d like to do so. The goal is to use reflective reading, writing, and storytelling to provide a new perspective on the pressures and distractions of modern life, particularly in medical settings. It’s an alternative to rushing non-stop from one outwardly focused activity to another, until the day comes when you look in a mirror and wonder who you really are and where your life has gone.
The menu at the right lists sections on reflective writing, thoughtful reading of literature, and storytelling, including sections on storytelling for physicians and health professionals. Each of these sections includes an introduction and links to podcasts, videos, readings, websites, and other material. The blog section includes posts with additional information on related topics. If you click the Subscribe button at the bottom right of the screen and provide your email address, you’ll be notified when new material is posted to the blog.
During this time of dealing with COVID-19, when pressures are even higher than usual, this website is meant to provide whatever help is possible in dealing with inner stress. Please feel free to use the Comments form if you have suggestions for additional material that may be useful.