Thursday, September 20, 2007

Grad School Meets Life – Escaping My Story

As many people know, I’ve gone back to school, to a masters program to become a addiction counselor, and in a short time I’ve come to understand that a great deal of what I learn will really pertain to my own life, and open some doors for me that my program may never have addressed. This week, one of those doors into my soul was opened, and I learned something crucial about myself. So I’m going to share it with you.

I’m reading a book by William C. Madsen on Collaborative Therapy, and its fascinating reading. Madsen indicates that each person, healthy or sick, creates a story for themselves. The story defines the teller, determines the teller’s reality. It is the image a person chooses to project to the people around him, and it may be more or less accurate depending on the person. Regardless, it’s how the person sees himself.

The individual has many experiences, the events that comprise his life. Naturally, the person determines which of these experiences to include in his story, which fit in with the person he’s trying to be. An experience outside of the scope of the story will be forgotten. And an experience inside the scope of the story will be retold, perhaps even stretched to reinforce or enhance the person’s story.

But here’s the thing, and this really got inside my head; once the person has determined his story, and found the experiences that fit with his story, he may unconsciously shape future experiences to jive with his story as well.

OK, a bit confusing, right? I’ll use myself as an example, and maybe it will come clearer.

When I was young, I was in a car accident; the accident nearly killed both my sister and I, but we both survived. Before that I had been an athlete, but following the accident I was told I would never walk again, let alone run. At that time, all I had worked for was removed from me, and I took on the role of the victim. That was my story, and now, looking back, I see that many times my feeling the victim influenced the outcome of experiences I faced.

Alternatively, I could have recognized that, but for a small miracle, I would be dead, and be grateful for the gift of life. If I had taken this perspective, I think that my life would have been very different to date. For one thing, I have had many near-death incidents since then, and since my story was that I was cursed, these experiences became examples of my being cursed. They could have instead been examples of my being blessed, as I see them now.

The crazy thing is, I always thought that, to get out of my story, I needed to look at the events in my life and find their roots. But Madsen disagrees. He believes that, to change our story, we have to find our goal, how we want our lives to be, and then work to make our experiences fit into this story. Individual incidents do get analyzed, but with an eye towards the long-term goals and the story we want to tell.

This is what I’m working towards today. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not there yet. But I see where my story has dictated my perception of the experiences that have befallen me, and thus influenced the outcome of these experiences. I am learning to rethink my story, and to reshape my experiences to fit the story I want to tell as my life. And this is a step in the right direction.

How about you? What is your story, and how has it affected the events in your life, and the way you perceive yourself? Looking at this may provide great insights on your life and the role you’ve played in events you thought you had no part in, just like it has provided me with these insights. Who knows, it may even help you find a story that is beyond your wildest dreams. That is rapidly becoming my story today, and I couldn’t be happier!

Posted by Scottage at 1:44 AM / | |