What's the Story?
This weekend I attended the Social Justice Summit hosted by the Trauma Research Foundation. It was incredibly inspiring to hear about trauma healing happening across the globe, especially during this time of collective distress, fatigue, and despair. While the projects and programs varied widely, throughout the summit we returned to the undeniable importance of story in the healing process.
Stories have power. Stories remind us of the universality of human experience: we are not alone in our pain, joy, rage, awe, disgust. Stories remind us that we are part of something greater, a history of wonder and devastation, creation and destruction, chaos and order. Stories help us make meaning, and in turn become the meaning we make.
The stories we tell ourselves define our lives.
Healing from trauma asks us to change the narrative from one of powerlessness and helplessness to one of empowerment and growth. Trauma survivors and trauma workers/healers often get caught up in the deficits, a tangle of symptoms, adverse reactions, injuries, emotional costs, everything lost and broken. Once entangled in the pain and suffering of trauma, we often lose sight of the resilience and strength built into the very word survivor. A survivor is a person who lives through atrocity; a person who remains after tragedy; a person who copes with unspeakable devastation and loss. Survivors are inherently strong.
The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are often limiting, old narratives focusing on our flaws, weakness, inability, worthlessness. When the stories are deeply rooted we may interpret every interaction, event, relationship, circumstance, as another chapter in the same old book. For instance, if a friend doesn't respond to your call/text, you may immediately tell yourself the story of how no one really likes/loves/needs you because you don't really matter to anyone. Ouch. And yet, these stories are so deeply ingrained that we don't even feel the hurt, we just keep spinning the narrative, anesthetized to the pain it inflicts.
The beautiful thing about story is that we always have choice over the narrative. You are the author of your life story. You may not always have control over the setting, characters, or plot; however, you create the meaning, set the tone, and give voice to the narrative. It's your story.
What story are you telling?
The next time something happens that evokes an uncomfortable or distressing emotion I invite you to ask yourself:
What is the story I am telling myself in this moment?
How is this story impacting me?
Is there another version that might promote my well-being?
The more awareness we have about the stories we are telling, the more opportunities we have to write and re-write the stories we want to live.
I hope this post helps you connect to yourself as the author of your life.
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