What do we make of the fact that sometimes things happen in our lives that we don’t expect? You find out that you have contracted a terminal illness. Maybe you learn that your long-time spouse or partner now wants to leave. Perhaps, your relationship with your adult child is now strained, and there is very little communication going on between the two of you.
Any of these examples could influence how our perception. Am I a winner or a loser? Have I found love or has love once again passed by my “vacancy sign? (Jackson Browne.).
The stories that we tell ourselves have tremendous power in informing us about our identity. There are people who will want to see themselves as heroes, while others will tend to view themselves as failures or perhaps even villains.
What do you do when you don’t like the story that has been constructed regarding your life ? Narrative Therapy has argued that people are capable of changing their stories that infuse meaning in their lives. One can cease to perceive as being the perennial “ loser “and instead can begin to see someone who has overcome difficulties and now can begin to thrive.
Someone can go see a helping professional ( i.e. Psychiatrist, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Psychologist, Social Worker, Clergy ) regarding a problem, and they can spend the whole time talking about the problem, but not necessarily get any new perspective about what strengths they possess. Clinical Social Worker and Narrative Therapist David Marsten has noted:
“Therapists can spend time listening for the problem story of patients, but even more important is to help patients listen for the entry points into the preferred story. “ ( Who said they were empty vessels? : Narrative Therapy with children and families April 28 2018 , Our Lady Of The Lake University San Antonio, TX )
Perhaps, you weren’t a loser when you left your husband who was beating you up. Maybe instead you showed great strength and courage in being able to leave a dangerous environment, and thus rediscover yourself and your right to freedom and safety.
David Martsen argues that people need to ask themselves what influence do you have over your problem? Also, what influence does the problem have over your life? Here there is the notion of personal self-agency. ( Ibid )
We are not blank screens. All of us possess virtues, vices, morals, characteristics that help shape our identity. What can become problematic is when we don’t focus upon those characteristics, virtues, values, morals that have helped shape us as people.
Do you perceive yourself as a empty vessel or as a moral agent? There’s a big difference here. If you see yourself as the former, then there will be the tendency to view yourself as being the victim of circumstance, like a rudderless ship being tossed about in a stormy sea.
However, if you perceive yourself as a moral agent – Voila! On My, what a difference !
Moral agency informs you that there is power inside of you based upon your values, your ethics, your religion, your culture, your humanity. In other words, you are a free agent that can make responsible viable choices for yourself.
What is your preferred story? Did you find strength in taking that different road? Was there gratification and satisfaction in knowing that if your followed your heart versus following what others wanted you to do, that you could find happiness, fulfillment, even purpose for your life?
As humans, we will continue to tell our stories and share those stories with others. May the stories we tell be true stories of who we are. May they speak to our character, our desires to become more human and more real, and may we realize that our life story is never really over. We are constantly writing and re-writing additional chapters that will contribute to a greater meaning of our human purpose.
May it be so.