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Book Summary: How We Heal – Uncover Your Power and Set Yourself Free

How We Heal (2022) provides a detailed look at the complex and life-changing process of self-healing. Techniques are separated into a 4-step framework which provides encouragement, practical strategies, and journaling exercises to help you rediscover your inner power and cultivate a sense of inner peace.

Learn strategies to heal, foster self-love, and uncover your own inner power.

As Alexandra Elle sat down to write her book, her pulse quickened and her palms started to sweat. Anxiety started to take over as negativity and self-doubt slowly crept in. “Why is this happening?” she asked herself.

After all, she’d taught thousands of people how to incorporate writing into their self-healing practice, led countless self-care workshops, and helped clients from all walks of life begin their healing journeys. She was certainly qualified, so why did she suddenly feel like an imposter?

At that moment she discovered a very important truth – the stories we tell ourselves are powerful enough to control who we believe we are.

Healing is about releasing these false narratives and letting go of what no longer serves you. It allows you to finally show up for yourself and get in touch with who you are meant to be. The process isn’t always easy, but it will set you free.

In this summary to Alexandra Elle’s How We Heal you’ll discover the most important messages from Elle’s four-step framework, access strategies to help you on your journey of self-healing, and learn how to incorporate them into your own healing practice. We’ll end each section with a journaling exercise that’ll help you expand on these ideas.

By the time you’re finished, you’ll be equipped with a new set of tools and the right mindset to cultivate self-love, heal your wounded inner child, and rediscover your own inner power. So let’s get started.

Book Summary: How We Heal - Uncover Your Power and Set Yourself Free

Step one: conquer your self-doubt and learn to start over.

In the wellness community, healing is often described as the end goal. We’re made to believe that if we can just discover what’s causing us pain and deal with it, everything will be fine.

The truth is that healing is a journey that never really ends. There may be times when you think you’ve made monumental progress, only to have a trigger send you right back to square one. Sometimes you have to start from scratch – and that’s okay.

Having to start a healing journey over doesn’t make you weak – it just means that you’re a human being who’s in touch with your own emotional well-being. In situations where you feel like you’re backtracking, it takes immense courage, commitment, and passion to keep going.

The great thing about starting over is that you get to keep the lessons you’ve learned along the way – that is, if you pay attention to them. When you acknowledge the work you’ve already done, you can use these skills to come back even better than you were before.

When trying to heal, there’ll be many moments when self-doubt and fear will threaten the progress you’ve made. But running from what scares you won’t make it go away. You have to be brave enough to face your issues head-on and come out stronger on the other side.

One of the most important elements required for true healing is self-forgiveness. Hating yourself isn’t going to get you anywhere. You need to be able to forgive yourself for what’s happened in the past, as you face the present and look toward a brighter future.

Unfortunately, forgiving yourself isn’t always easy. It’s a truly complicated process – especially when you feel that you’ve hurt people or let them down. What you need to understand is that human beings are inherently flawed. As you unpack trauma from your past, you should avoid blaming yourself for things you can’t change.

When you stop avoiding the issues that feel too difficult to face, you can begin to show up in new ways and start building the life that you truly want. Forgiving yourself creates the space to expand emotionally and become a compassionate person who can heal your past, present, and future.

For the first journaling exercise, you’re going to write a letter to yourself. Think back over any moments in your life when you’ve felt embarrassed, ashamed, or inadequate.

Maybe you made a mistake or chose poorly. Maybe you were the victim of mistreatment and blame yourself for the abuse. Dig deep and be vulnerable. Don’t try to escape any feelings that rise to the surface – let them come.

Once you’ve put these thoughts down on paper, give yourself the grace and understanding that you deserve. Forgive yourself for what you believe you’ve done wrong and give yourself permission to let it go. Finish the letter by promising to forgive and love every part of yourself – no matter what.

Step two: befriend fear and acknowledge your pain.

As you continue on into the deeper layers of our self-healing, it becomes increasingly important to learn how to reframe thoughts surrounding fear and pain. Everyone gets so caught up in the things they’re afraid to face that they often forget to exercise self-compassion and understanding.

To move forward, you have to face your fear, sadness, and pain without judgment. It’s entirely possible to hold yourself accountable without allowing feelings of contempt to cloud the process.

The first step is to identify what you’re truly afraid of. Then you can learn to befriend those fears so they’re no longer in control. This may be an uncomfortable path full of trial and error, but it’s the only way to truly embrace transformation and find freedom in your self-healing.

Healing isn’t the same for everyone, so don’t get caught up in doing things “the right way.” Society likes to present the idea that everyone should know who they are and where their life is going at all times. This can lead people to feel lost and disoriented if they haven’t dealt with what’s really bothering them.

Some people may even find that healing their trauma is more painful than the events that caused it. It may seem easier to just ignore the broken parts, but this won’t do any good in the long run. When you commit to your healing journey, you agree to push through the hard things so that you can someday find peace.

You also need to be able to balance this process with positive self-talk. Speaking positively to yourself is crucial for cultivating patience and creating positive changes in your behavior. Remember, the most important time to be kind to yourself is when you’re at your lowest.

Positive affirmations can also be a helpful tool throughout this journey. Self-affirmation invites you to look inward and reclaim your voice. But it’s important to remember that speaking affirmations is only the first part of bringing them to life. Without action, they’re only words.

As you move toward more positive ways of thinking, remember that you’ll also need to put in the work to see your manifestations through. Affirmations combined with action can change your life in amazing ways and put you on the right path.

For the next writing exercise, we’re going to create what Elle calls “Self-Love Stepping Stones.” These are small actions you can take to become the best version of yourself throughout the process of healing.

Put the phrase “Stepping Stones” in the center of a blank page and surround it with a circle. Fill in the points along the circle with the steps you want to take to create love and understanding for yourself. Some examples could be “honoring personal boundaries” or “forgiving past mistakes.”

If at any time during your healing you find yourself struggling, come back to these steps and take a moment to remember why they’re so important to you.

Step three: rewrite your story and reclaim your power.

When it comes to healing, we’re often taught to look outside of ourselves for solutions to our problems. Whether it’s religion, therapy, or even meditation, it’s suggested that we look anywhere but inward for all the answers.

The truth is that while external support is important, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Ultimately, the only person who can heal you is you. You have to be the one to set yourself free. After you’ve learned to face your fears and forgive yourself, the next step is to reclaim your power by rewriting your own story.

To uncover your true voice, you need to find the internal answers to all of your what, why, and how questions. In other words, ask yourself what’s hurting you, why it’s hurting you, and how you want these feelings to change.

Examining your story can sometimes be difficult and messy, but it’s essential for true healing. Again, you have to let go of what you don’t need in order to move forward. One of the most important aspects of this practice is creating a dialogue to nurture your wounded inner child.

Many of the harmful behaviors that cause adults pain are the result of what we learned as children. We’re often conditioned early to carry the burdens of the people around us. Creating a safe space to connect with our inner child allows us to sort out the emotions that belong to us and those that don’t.

While it can sometimes be hard to communicate positively with yourself as an adult, you might find it easier to speak kindly to your younger self. You may even be able to act as a mentor or guardian for them.

Imagine all of the things that you truly needed as a child and finally give them to yourself. Let your inner child feel all of the emotions they’ve been holding onto and help them process these feelings in a healthy way. Engaging with your inner child is a great way to help you regain your power and find your voice as an adult.

You may feel some degree of separation from the child inside you at first. But as you begin to show love, comfort, and care for them, you’ll realize that your younger self is part of your story. You’re one and the same.

Now It’s time to use your journal to rediscover your own story. This writing exercise is designed to help you to better understand your emotional wants and needs as a child. At the top of a blank page, write the phrase “My Younger Self.” Next, make a t-chart with the words “Wanted” and “Needed” on either side.

Alternating between sections, write down all the words that come to mind. Once you have your list of words, set a timer for two minutes and write freely about anything that comes to the surface. Write whatever calls to you – there’s no right or wrong way to put these feelings down on paper.

Step four: embrace gratitude and welcome joy.

During deep, emotional healing work you need to come up for air and rest. People who’re working through trauma are often so eager to escape their pain that they want to speed through the process. This may be easier in the short term, but it’s not sustainable.

Rest gives you a much-needed opportunity to recharge so that you have the strength to keep going. If you break a bone or cut yourself, you have to rest physically to allow the body time to heal itself. The same goes for your mental health and emotional well-being.

A very common misconception is that if someone is in the process of healing, they must be hurt, sad, or suffering in some way. The truth is that healing is never linear. It’s complicated and fluid – ebbing and flowing at different points in everyone’s own individual journey.

Experiencing joy while you heal isn’t only possible, it’s vital to success. As you do your emotional work, give yourself permission to move toward the light and put down the heavy weight you’ve been carrying for so long.

One of the easiest ways to create joy in your life is to practice embracing gratitude. Each time we express gratitude for your life – especially in times of suffering – you discover how to handle the bad days a little bit better.

It might seem strange to be thankful for your struggles, but without them, you wouldn’t be able to recognize joy. As is taught in Buddhism, there’s no joy without pain. The trials and tribulations of life are the very things that teach you how to become a resilient, well-rounded human being.

Before you can begin to truly embrace gratitude, it’s important to understand what this really means. Being grateful doesn’t just involve making a list of the good things in your life. Instead, it’s about making space in your heart and mind to appreciate the mundane.

When you feel you’re at your lowest, remind yourself to be grateful for the little things. Did you have the energy to get out of bed this morning? Were you able to take a walk in the fresh air or eat a meal that nourished your body? Yes, it sounds corny, but every breath you take is a gift.

For your last writing practice, you’re going to be celebrating joy itself. In your journal, write down three memories that bring you feelings of joy and happiness. As you write, try to be as detailed as you can. Who were you with? What were you doing? What did this moment feel like? What could you do to recapture that feeling today?

You can return to this practice any time you need to. When things get difficult, pull out your journal and relive these moments. Even if you feel hopeless, remember that it’s always possible to feel joyful again. Allow this happiness to fill you up and give you the little push you need to keep going.


Healing is a journey that never truly ends. Though the process is unique, complex, and a bit messy, it’s the only way to become the person you are meant to be.

There may be times when self-doubt and fear will make you feel like you have to start over from scratch and that’s perfectly fine. As long as you learn to face your challenges and befriend your fears, you can take your power back.

By rewriting your own story, you can heal both the person you once were and the person you’ve become. Along the way, it’s important to make space for joy and express gratitude for the life you’ve been given.

Remember, you’re not alone – everyone is a work in progress. The journey of self-healing will have its ups and downs, but you absolutely can heal and become whole again. Just take it day by day, be patient, and always be kind to yourself.

About the author

Alexandra Elle is a writer, wellness educator, and certified Breathwork coach. Her work has been featured by a wide range of media outlines, including the New York Times, NPR, Good Morning America, ABC News, Essence, The Cut, MindBodyGreen, Bet, and Forbes, among many others. She teaches workshops and leads retreats centered around writing and self-care, and was host of the popular hey, girl podcast. She is the author of several books and journals, including, most recently, After the Rain and the In Courage Journal. She lives in the Washington DC metro area with her husband and three daughters.


Self Help, Nonfiction, Psychology, Mental Health, Health, Personal Development, Adult, Womens, Spirituality, Self-Improvement, Self-Help, Relationships, Personal Growth, Happiness, Personal Transformation


An instant New York Times bestseller

Beloved wellness author and teacher Alexandra Elle shares this practical and empowering guide to self-healing.

In How We Heal, bestselling author Alexandra Elle offers a life-changing invitation to heal yourself and reclaim your peace. In these pages, readers will discover essential techniques for self-healing, including journaling rituals to cultivate innate strength, accessible tools for processing difficult emotions, and restorative meditations to ease the mind.

Alex Elle elegantly weaves together themes like self-healing, mindfulness, inner child work, and boundary setting and presents the reader with easy-to-follow practices that have changed her life and the lives of the thousands of people she has taught. Her 4-part framework for healing will appeal to anyone who wants a clear process, while the compelling personal stories leave the reader feeling connected and ready to begin again.

Complementing the practices are powerful insights from Alex Elle’s own journey of self-discovery using writing to heal, plus remarkable stories of healing from a range of luminary voices, including Nedra Tawwab, Morgan Harper Nichols, Dr. Thema Bryant, Barb Schmidt, and many more.

Brimming with encouragement and delivered with Alex Elle’s signature warmth and candor, How We Heal is a must-have companion for anyone that wants to unlock their inner wisdom and confidence to heal on their own.


“Alexandra Elle has curated a beautiful collection of stories and advice from some of the wisest women of our time. Their insights won’t just move you; they’ll leave you rethinking your fundamental beliefs about healing. It’s not a goal to achieve―it’s a daily activity and a lifetime project.” -Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Think Again and host of the TED podcast WorkLife

“Elle is one of the premiere writers of the modern age. In How We Heal, she delivers powerful medicine for anyone who is ready to deeply transform their life. If you are looking to do serious healing work, this book is necessary.”-Yung Pueblo, New York Times bestselling author of Clarity Connection

“This beautiful book is the physical manifestation of Elle’s work-the power of healing through community. The book takes us on the journey of witnessing powerful and vulnerable stories while inviting us to look at our own healing. You’ll finish this book feeling like you just left an intimate event with some of the most wonderful voices in wellness and beyond.” -Yasmine Cheyenne, self-healing educator, author, and mental wellness advocate

“This book is a must-read for anyone looking to supercharge their healing! Elle sees the importance of how we think, feel, and choose, and how this impacts how we function in our day-to-day lives. How We Heal is a natural outpouring of her passion for helping others find true and lasting healing through the power of the mind.” -Dr. Caroline Leaf, neuroscientist, bestselling author, and award-winning podcast host

“How We Heal provides us with a practical tool kit for continuously healing our hearts and invites us to treat ourselves with compassion, empathy, patience, and love as we seek to do the work that healing requires.” -Marisa Renee Lee, grief advocate, entrepreneur, and bestselling author

“We are all healing from something. Elle takes our hands and shows us the way to repairing our hearts so that we can make peace with our past and joyfully experience the present.” -Jay Shetty, New York Times bestselling author of Think Like a Monk and podcast host of On Purpose

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