Searching for Linking Characteristics

Our hypothesis is that there are linked characteristics in people’s recovery journeys, which is an area of research that has not been examined to our knowledge. We initially considered the practical features that may link recovery stories but quickly found that there were far more links to people’s mindsets than their methodologies.

Having a ‘Person Centred Lens’ means we are able to look beyond an individual treatment strategy and into what someone learns about themselves from their choice of treatment. Within this frame of Mindset Change, a number of characteristics have already made themselves clear.

As we continue, we shall be searching for other indications that demonstrate no matter where someone is in the world, the belief system they have (or don’t have), their level of education and their income, that recovery solutions are evidenced. We shall be seeking to evidence from recovery stories that when these approaches are adopted and put into action, they change the course of their illness for the better.


Personality Key Elements

With good fortune, whilst gathering research in India, I was reading ‘The Myth of Normal’ by Dr Gabor Maté. In this, he describes four healing aspects he feels are essential in order to recover from stress related conditions. Please see here for more details on Gabor Mate’s elements.

These four aspects are:

  • Authenticity – to live life in a way that is true to oneself. To not hide a part of yourself or live with a lie.

  • Agency – to comprehend that one is in control of ones own life and health. That nobody else will solve this but you.

  • Anger – to have a healthy understanding of ones boundaries, and to uphold them. Also, to be able to let go of the sensation of anger when it is no longer required.

  • Acceptance – to neither wallow in, nor minimise ones illness, injury or condition. To accept the present situation without blame or wishing it hadn’t happened. To also not shrug ones shoulders and state ‘It is what it is’. To accept with empathy.


We decided to look for these themes in the case studies of our interviews, and the graph below demonstrates their level of presence.


Searching for Linking Characteristics in Peoples Recovery Stories. Graph of similarity in the 4 A's (Gabor Mate)

In addition we began to notice other themes emerging in recovery stories:

  • Altruistic actions – persons moving towards careers, hobbies and actions that benefit others. Out of choice rather than of a ‘people-pleasing’ guilt.

  • Flexible mindset – the open-mindedness to try something new and change tack when a belief or a structure is no longer supporting them.

  • Perfection – to use what is often considered a negative trait, that can induce excess stress, to ones own benefit. To use this perfectionism to work hard on ones own healing journey.

  • Renunciation – ‘To give up something’ this can take the form of giving up a habit, belief or action that is that is worsening ones illness or mindstate.

Thus the ‘Personality Key Elements’ emerged. When you see this header in a case study, the information included represents what we are considering to be the primary Mindset Changes of a person’s journey. When we have sufficient case studies, we shall analyse how many of these are shared.


Practical Features

In addition to Personality Key Elements, we have maintained an interest in the methodologies reported by interviewees. We do not judge or critique, but consider whether there are any repeating themes in what they include. Dr Bessel van der Kolk suggests in his book ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ that there are three styles of treatment – Top down (i.e. Psychotherapeutic), Bottom up (physical activity based) and Pharmacological. We questioned initially if there would be one approach that worked more often than another, but case studies, to date, have not yet led to any clear correlation and did not allow for multi-modal approaches, which are often used.

We have seen some examples of commonalities in methods. These include:

  • Presence of a Guide/Teacher/Therapist

  • A ‘Safe Space’

  • Development of the felt sense (Somatic Awareness)

  • Learning cognitive appraisal


Our Research Continues

As we continue our research through collecting and analysing case studies, we shall be carefully documenting which themes become the most dominant in recovery stories. We shall also be alert to other themes we have not seen yet and what people learn about themselves and their capabilities which change their lives.

I recently presented our initial findings to SIRPA (Stress Illness Recovery Practitioners Association). Click on the image to see this presentation:

link to SIRPA CPD Discussion on Key Findings