"I am a Story Within Myself"
"I am a Story Within Myself"
L.T. Force, Ph.D.
I was having a conversation with someone today and we were talking about our interpretations of: "the behavior of others”. As our exchange continued and we were sharing experiences, observations and interactions within our own lives - we both agreed: "the most predictable thing about behavior - is that it is unpredictable". The stories we shared with each other highlighted how: "some of the behaviors we have witnessed - across time - are so in line with what we would expect from people - however, there were other stories and behaviors we have witnessed that are so off the mark of what we would each call: acceptable, typical or tolerable”.
As the conversation continued - the person I was speaking with said, in referencing himself:
“I am story within myself”. I asked him - if he could hold on a minute because I wanted to write that phrase down:”I am a story within myself”. Because once I heard those words - they resonated with me. I began to think - how true those words were: “We are all stories within ourselves”.
In my practice, when I first meet a new client - I call the first session: "the Landscape Session”. It is here, where I ask clients to: “tell me who is who....tell me who the main players are in your life....give me an idea of who is who. I even ask clients to provide narrative across generations about their families, I.e., how many children, how many siblings, what about parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents....etc. I ask them to not only identify the people by name within their family system - but to describe them....to tell me their story". The benefit of this exercise is to look for: "patterns of behavior and family traditions and practices". This exercise is called :"developing a genogram - usually three to four generations". In my Theories of Social Casework class - I have students complete a genogram as a project. I want them to understand that: "all behavior occurs within a Family System". I also want them to understand that: "it's not always easy to talk about one’s family". I want them to understand that in our field - we often ask clients to: ”tell me about your family and then we sit back and gather notes and arrive at interpretations". But I want the students to see: "what we are asking our clients to do is not easy, i.e., talking about one’s family". I tell them never to forget: "all families don’t look like yours - but that doesn’t mean that they are broken or fragmented....or that one family is better than the other....they are just different....all families are different".
As the students are working on this project and creating this: "genogram template" - by identifying and talking about some of their family constructs (and there can be so many to draw from): for example, : "family traditions, wellness and mental health issues across generations, the influence of religion, the discussion of politics, the handling of money and finance, the presence of sarcasm, the use of humor, the role of emotions and touch, the common exchange of the positive affirmations - family members sharing the words....I’m proud of you....I love you....or the absence of those positive declarations. I also give the students one additional instruction and that is: "if you hand in your project with only identifying negative aspects of your family - I won’t be grading your paper and I will be handing it back to you.....returning it to you....and the reason is: all families have strengths, as well. There are no families where only the positive can be found, as well that are no families where only the negative can be found...If you only identify the negative aspects of your family genogram - you need to go back and revisit that exploration....because, again: “all families have strengths, as well”.
Thank-you, my Friend for sharing your statement with me today: “I am a story within myself”. You provided me the opportunity to think about your statement. And I began to think..."We all have a story within us"....one that can be understood, analyzed, reflected upon, interpreted and then celebrated....because: ”We are the stories within ourselves....and yes, I am a Story Within Myself....as are all of us - just look at the picture above - all of those people have stories....we all have stories....individual stories and collective stories together....”.