In the first few counselling sessions, I generally ask people to tell me stories about who they are and what they think is important for me to know about them. People then begin to tell me some stories about their life and how they came to have this current struggle.
In the process, some narratives are told and some are withheld; some come forward shyly and some get blurted out. Often people surprise themselves about what they talk about. “I haven’t thought about that in a long time” and “I didn’t realize the meaning of that until I said it” are common statements. In moments like that, meaning and emotions are abruptly unveiled like a sudden plot twist and surprise and curiosity ensue.
Sue Monk Kidd speaks to the healing power of narratives in her book, Dance of the Dissident Daughter:
The truth is, in order to heal we need to tell our stories and have them witnessed…the story itself becomes a vessel that holds us up, that sustains, that allows us to order our jumbled experiences into meaning.
We need to hear each other into speech (Nellie Morton), which means allowing for the stories to be told in the way that they need to be and that our witness conveys respect and empathy. Our life narratives hold a great deal of power; what we say about ourselves (past) colours every part of our living and being in the world (present and future).
Listen deeply to the storytelling of people around you and notice how influential this act is in creating deep connections with others. When soul and story meet, we walk alongside fellow sojourners and our isolation and separateness drops by the wayside. This walk (or dance) is what makes us able to bear up under the pressures and problems of life and offers us the promise of health and wholeness. This is the essence of narrative therapy.