Somebody once said to me “I wished I could speak another language, one that I have never lied in...”. I can relate to that wish of being able to start our storytelling afresh; the idea of being able to reinvent who we are by telling our stories in a different light.
In my counselling and psychotherapy practice I notice how we all share a human need to make meaning of our lives through the telling of stories. We continually weave narratives around the events of our lives. These stories shape who we are and who we become. We may tell ourselves “I am the sort of person who ...” ....” “I don’t ” .... “I always” ..... The repeated telling of stories satisfies our human need to make meaning and helps to form structures in the mind and the brain. Some of these structures may serve us well while others may hinder us in living a fuller and richer life.
We may have several stories that we tell over and over again in different guises. The content may differ but the structure of the story often remains the same. These stories may frequently cast the same roles for ourselves and other people in familiar ways with us as the disadvantaged victim perhaps, or the person being loved and admired, the anxious or the lonely person, the achiever who ends up sorting things out for everyone else but always feels stressed etc. We tend to make sense of what happens around us by fitting events to that very familiar story pattern that we know so well.
Some stories are told over generations as a fixed narrative that is shared amongst members of a family, like ’we don’t do this in our family..’ or ‘men in our family ….’ These explicit or more implicit stories then start to influence our actions, both in our awareness and unconsciously.
Berthold Brecht famously said: “If you don’t like the story of your life, change the story”. In order to be able to do that, we need to become aware of the narrative structure we keep repeating and the stories we are living by.
Is there fluidity in the stories you tell about your life? Are you aware of the stories you are less able to hear, less able to tell? What story would you like to be telling about yourself? What would it be like to start telling that story right now?