People are often confused by what may happen when one seeks out the care of a psychologist. But in many ways it is quite simple to understand when we talk about stories. From when we are small children and an event occurs, we relate that event to others in the form of story. The story is composed of words that often convey in them the lived experience in our mind of the event. As such when we tell stories they are more than just telling the facts. They convey feelings and pictures in our minds also. As we tell the story the event can be re-lived in our minds even if those hearing our story don’t see it fully the way we do. As we grow and there are many memories we hold from our life, we begin to put together the larger ‘story’ of our life too. For some that story is full of joy; for others it is a story of tragedy. Yet even in the most tragic story there can be smaller stories of events where we felt real joy for a time.
Every culture and generation has known the power of telling stories in understanding and making sense of our lives……….Why then should psychology in caring for us be any different? Coming to therapy is about your being able to tell your story to someone who seeks to hear it in all its important details and who seeks to understand it together with you. For many people the relief that comes from being able to have someone help them put words around their story or simply being listened to is immense. For some it is all they require
But for most people this telling of the story is only part of what happens in therapy. This is because the story a person brings is often one causing them great distress. And it is this distress from the story that has brought them to therapy. Whether this distress is in the form of some mental disorder diagnosed by another or one of feeling simply overwhelmed by life events, it is still told in the stories of people’s lives. Often it is the ways in which people experience their stories that is causing them such distress. For example a ‘story’ of a relationship breakdown may be very different for a person who tells it as a story of failure on their part compared to person who feels others are always to blame compared to one who feels relief at not having to be too close to people. But each of these stories of relationship loss may lead to great distress. To leave their story as it is told at the present time will continue to lead to distress….And so the work of therapy.
Therapy is often about helping people tell a different story of the event or of their life overall - a re-storying to allow the story to be seen in a different way. It may be to help the story be told at more of a distance so it can become part of the past and not the future. Different psychological approaches may help to re-story in different ways. Some may work through changing thoughts or challenging deeply held painful words of the past, or helping someone find new ways of coping in a situation. But each approach is about helping you change the way you may see and experience the story of distress. The facts will remain but the threads that bind the facts together can be altered so a new picture can be created into which you can place the stories of the past and make a new story for the future that matters to you