I’m currently completing a Master’s degree in Psychotherapy and Counselling. This has been a long-term life goal for me, and my days are quietly spent chipping away at it one unit at a time. I’ve tried to fit the study in and around my life so that it doesn’t overwhelm me, my work, or my relationships. So far so good – only four units to go!
Last term, I completed a unit on storytelling, narrative, self, and metaphor, and in many ways my relationship to story was hidden to me before studying this unit – not completely hidden but perhaps at the back of the ‘bookcase’. As part of this unit I was asked to keep a journal, noting the stories that I encountered along the way. In hindsight, I am surprised by what came through. In itself, writing and keeping a journal is a little bit like being in therapy and combining both can be very meaningful.
The journaling helped me connect with what sits below and circles my everyday experiences. I had not been attuned to the many daily encounters I had with story. Once upon a time (yes, it’s a storytelling pun), I would busily go about my day and mostly take for granted or not listen/see/feel for the story within the many stories on my television, in the press media, embedded in the songs on my Spotify feed, or hidden in my clients’ narratives.
Over time, I started to see more and more stories in everyday life. For example, the story of the ‘happy couple’ at the supermarket and the story of the ‘free spirit’ as a man waited for his takeaway coffee. I theoretically came to comprehend concepts like ‘False Self’ (Winnicott, 1965, 2005) and ‘narrative enactments’ (Siegel, 2012) and these concepts helped me see the hidden stories within me. As I progressed through the learning, I found new frameworks for listening and responding. What I now realise is that this learning all converges around my work with you and the stories being told (or not told) in the therapy space.
Re-reading the words in my journal feels like getting a nudge from the different parts of self. The noisy parts are my dominant archetypes: the artist, the lover, the caregiver, and the explorer. These archetypes align neatly with my values around creativity, unity, service, and adventure. Beyond the archetypes, themes, and genres sit the grand narratives. The narrative of power (the teller and the listener) and the narrative of privilege (access to words, education, languages, and culture).
I recently had a meaningful conversation with a client which related to the role of community in repairing and rewriting our trauma (Epstein, 2013) and shame stories. Kara (pseudonym), in her elegant and open-hearted way, was inviting me into her experience. On some level she was asking me to listen and learn from her story, be part of the settling down and settling into her narrative. On further reflection, both power and privilege were present in this moment but were somewhat dismantled, allowing us to connect, co-create, and re-tell (re-listen) and re-imagine her story.
Photos by Art Lasovsky and Hatice Yardım on Unsplash.
Epstein, M. (2013). The trauma of everyday life. New York: Hay House.
Siegel, D. (2012). The developing mind : How relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.
Winnicott, D. (1965). The maturational processes and the facilitating environment : Studies in the theory of emotional development. New York: International University Press, Inc.
Winnicott, D. (2005). Playing and reality (Routledge classics). London ; New York: Routledge.