Your Life….Your Call!: Autobiography, Memoir or Snapshot!

Your Life….Your Call!:

Autobiography, Memoir orSnapshot!

by.

L.T. Force, Ph.D.

Gerontologist





I have recently started to think: “What motivates a person to want to write an

autobiography?” There probably is a “moment in time” where one comes to the decision - that the ability to capture in writing their life - and the stages of life they have traveled makes sense. But then I started to think: “I wonder how honest they are in capturing the “depth and surfaces” of their own lives”.

As I tell my students: “We all have stories ….everyone has a story”. And as I mirror that reflection to my clients - I also add an additional statement: “I’m not your hero….I can’t fix you….because your not broken. We all have stories….”.

As I continued to think about “the process of writing of one-self” - I started to think - maybe a person doesn’t want to write about their entire life experiences….across stages. Maybe, they would just want to focus on a specific area, time or dimension of their life….and therefore, they take the route of writing a Memoir. But again I had that recurring thought: “I wonder how honest they are in capturing the “depth and surfaces” of their own lives”. And why do I ask that question? Because we all have stories….everyone has a story….every family has a story….every family has a currency ….every family has traditions….every family has toxic issues….every family has secrets….every family has shame…..every family has joy to celebrate….every family has stuff! Why? Because, all of these things are part of the human condition!


When I hear somebody say: “Oh, I ran into somebody who knows you”. I often think: “which one of me do they know"?. Do they know “the me” that is focused, determined and productive…. or do they know “the me” that at times…. was distracted, absorbed and misguided?” We all have stories....

We all have multiple selves…multiple stories…we all do…and to deny that is unrealistic....multiple selves….multiple stories that we weave all together. Think about it…. think about the different age and stages you’ve been at.... and how you presented yourself and what you’ve been: "focused on….or distracted by or absorbed by". The reality is that we all have multiple selves….multiple stories. The beauty is we’re not acting like it’s “not-me”. One of my favorite theorist, Harry Stack Sullivan (The Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry) speaks of the structure of personality as: ”the good-me….the bad-me….and the not-me”. The “good-me” and the “bad me” are personality structures that we all have. The “not-me” component of personality structure is more of the pathological component - where you completely dissociate from the actions of your past - as though they never occurred - that is the “not-me” theme. I also love the quote of Erik Erickson - where he describes:: “the healthy personality as

a person who does not deny the past….and is flexible enough to deal with the future”. For me. that quote sums it up.

As I continued to think about the framework of the autobiography or the memoir - would I want to write one? As I think about that - the answer is probably not. Why? Do I think my life - across the stages of development doesn’t have merit? No, not at all. I think a profile of the stage development of my life would have a learning value - both for myself and others. What about a Memoir? Possible. The beauty of a memoir is that you can focus on a time, event, experience of your choice and by doing so - you can amplify that item or period of life - and also filter out other stages or experiences (individual or family) that you would not like to broadcast publicly. For example, for me personally within my family system - you will find loving, caring people who would be so present for you - regardless of the circumstances or time of day - riding the: “horse of heart-driven empathy and compassion“. However, you will also find the “horse of addiction and impulsivity” running and galloping at various times through my intergenerational family system. Sometimes, there were multiple riders saddled up on that: “horse of heart-driven empathy and compassion“ and that horse of “addictive and impulsive patterns”…. sometimes running and galloping with just one member of the family system…..but rarely running without someone mounted on their back”.

What’s the lesson? Of course, I would want to share the closeness….the caring and the love shared within my intergenerational family system symbolized by the horse of: “heart-driven empathy and compassion“. And obviously, I would like to “lower the volume” on the presence of the: “addictive impulsive pattern horse” Can I hold up proudly the positive aspects of my family system…."the legends of love, compassion and resiliency"? Yes, I can! Can I deny those addictive impulsive patterns - as though they never happened in an intergenerational fashion in my family system….No, I can’t! We all learn lessons from the “Family-Dance!” So, maybe at some point…. a memoir it is….but not just yet.

So, if not an autobiography nor a memoir….what could it be to help capture the themes, experiences or components of my life (and of yours, as well)….as you share your story to others? My answer, it’s a “snapshot”….a picture in time that could be created, produced and shared - with people - who you would like to share it with….and as well, the narrative accompanying that “snapshot” of your life - at any moment you so desire....sharing a collection of pictures and images that having meaning for you....to tell your story.

Choices? We all have choices as to how we want to share our life stories and experiences .... could be an autobiography, a memoir or a snapshot….that’s your Call! But remember, you own your own story….and not the other way around!