01 Sep What’s Your Story
There is a therapy modality that I like called Narrative Family Therapy. In essence, narrative therapy is about how you define yourself and the narratives about you that you run in your head and in your life. Really, it’s about the power of what you believe to be true and how you go through life seeking evidence that supports that truth. Where problems or pathology occur is when your story of you is so negative as to be confining.
Typically, people are aware of and even seek evidence that supports their dominant narratives, both in life and in themselves. For example, if deep inside I believe that I’m not really of value to others, I will be keenly aware of times that message seems to be in my life. Maybe it’s a terse answer someone gives to a question or someone chooses to do something else rather than be with me. Maybe they are not calling and asking about how things are going with me as often as I think a caring friend would or maybe when they do, they quickly bring the subject around to themselves. The theory also applies to behaviors such as, “I always lash out at my wife when I feel attacked.”
The problem lies with the fact that if I deeply believe my narrative, the evidence that I see is the evidence that supports the narrative. Therapists will sometimes call this a “thin” narrative. The therapeutic goal, then, is to help the person “thicken” their narrative by getting them to intentionally look for the presence of what might be called “unique outcomes” or times when there is evidence of even a slightly different story.
Notice I said intentionally. Left to our own devices and processes, we will continue to run the same story line and find support for it. But think about it. Maybe, if I looked hard enough I might encounter that person who focuses in on me or who is kind to me or who shows genuine concern for me. Maybe if I search a little harder, I might recognize a moment in which I felt attacked by my wife and instead of lashing out, took a breath and responded quietly. This is the real process of taking a thin story and thickening it up and when the story thickens even a little, possibilities and hopefulness can be found.
So, what’s your story? Do you need to thicken your story some? Look for some unique outcomes. If you do, you might just find some new hope and possibility and in case you were wondering, I believe that stories of hope and possibility are very good things!