DEVELOPING A COHERENT NARRATIVE ABOUT OUR LIFE.
“Writing about important personal experiences in an emotional way for as little as 15 minutes over the course of three days brings about improvements in mental and psychical health” Pennebaker & Seagal, 1999.
“Writing serves the function of organizing complex emotional experiences” – Pennebaker & Seagal, 1999.
So – writing for 15 minutes a day working on the questions above is a fabulous starting place.
Research has shown that having a coherent narrative about who we were, who we are now and who we would like to become, helps us to make sense of the past. When we can make sense of our confusing childhood experiences that couldn’t be integrated at the time, there is an opportunity for deep healing to occur. This doesn’t mean saying that what happened was okay. It is about having an integrated overview of what happened and why.
It might sound like:
I was raised by an alcoholic father and a fearful mother. I was scared most of my childhood, and that was appropriate, it was a scary place. Now, I find relationships scary, and I find myself incredibly frightened of angry men, and even clam men if I think I do something wrong. Moving forward I want a healthier relationship with loving men. I can do this!
Forming a narrative helps with emotional regulation and the activity of the prefrontal cortex, which helps to calm the body physically.
Doing this work helps to shift us towards secure attachment types.
One of the best ways to form a healthy narrative is with a therapist or counsellor. Sometimes we are so invested in our old story, it can be difficult to find a way out, to get a different perspective. This is where having our story heard, witnessed and worked through with a trained support person can be an incredibly powerful experience.
Pennebaker, J. W. & Seagal, J. D. (1999). Forming a story: the health benefits of narrative. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 55(10), 1243-54.
Siegel, D. (2010). Mindsight: The new science of personal transformation.