Use the power of words

 

The power of literature to promote psychological wellbeing is well documented.

Poetry, specifically, is a passage into the deepest parts within us – the hidden, ignored, unrealised.  Through reflecting on our response to a poem, we become more self-aware.

When you connect with what is essentially a bunch of words albeit well crafted, ask yourself “why am I drawn to this?” or “to which part of me does this speak to?”  Be open, and kind to yourself as you listen to the answer.

This is a poem that still resonates with me.  Can you hear an invitation?

 

THE INVITATION

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon…
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

by Oriah “Mountain Dreamer” House, “The Invitation” 1999

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2018

Your words of emotions

 

The language we use to describe our emotions affects how we feel.  I see this often in my work, and this is the basis for a common call to “reframe”. There is more to mere “reframe”.

But first, can we identify our emotions now? How do we do this? What words do we use, and why? Words are culturally-informed, and we use words as a tool for social conformity, in our instinctive desire and attempt to belong.

 

 

~ FlorenceT

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2017

You are your own narrator

 

What new stories will you be creating for yourself?

Narrative tool

Writers do it all the time, use narrative as a tool to guide interpretation, to construct meaning, and ultimately to persuade and influence. So do teachers, as narrative is also a powerful tool for instruction and learning.

Why? Narrative creates meaning, invokes emotions, it makes things “real”.

And it is also through narratives that we view and experience our lives, both personal and professional. This is how we learn who we are – from the narratives told of our lives from when we were too young to create our own.

We initially used (very large) computers as a tool for calculations, its size and cost restricted our access. Now, it is ingrained in our daily life, using it so often such that many of us would feel rather lost without our devices. Our sense of self is very much tied to this small device.

The same applies to narratives. One story does not a man or woman made. But many similar stories and repeated create a wealth of meaning and gradually forges an identity.

A narrated life

One instance of timidity, and a story being told over and over again, which in turn compels attention to other incidents of “lack of bravery”… until one day, that girl can only ever remember stories of her timidity. Along the way, she has also picked up stories of “shy” and “unsociable” which fit with “timid”. These were noted and recorded by those around her, who saw only these because the narrative is indeed persuasive.

And what does it mean for this young girl, to be known as “timid”, shy” and “unsociable”? She now makes sense of the world through these limiting lens.

Little attention was given to, nor stories told of, the times when she courageously stepped into a new world, or when she stood up for herself when accused of a wrongdoing, or defended her brother to her friends. They went unnoticed perhaps because everyone loves a good story, and a good story is one that is coherent and familiar, like a fairy tale. Except for the girl, it is unlikely to end with ‘happily ever after” unless something changes. Until she takes up the challenge of authoring her life, to learn to make a different sense of her self and her world.

This now young woman is stepping out into the world. Her unease of who she is may lead her to question and become aware of how those stories that have shaped her life emerged… grew.

Will she step out of the limiting narrative that has governed much of her life? What can she do to re-story her life?

You as narrator

Humans are meaning-making creatures after all. When there are enough “aberrant” stories, we will be compelled to ask “why”, to see new patterns, to create new meanings.

So if you are in this exciting space of exploring stories that have shaped your life,

  1. Identify witnesses to your life who will share alternate stories,
  2. Seek out alternate stories,
  3. Consciously create new stories,
  4. Choose a professional who will facilitate this important exploration.

To paraphrase a popular saying, if you want a different result, do something different.

Begin with determination and committed action.

 

~ FlorenceT

 

References:

Barker, S. (2016) Paul Ricoeur and Narrative Identity: Why we are our story. Psychology Today Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/post-clinical/201604/paul-ricoeur-and-narrative-identity

Foresight Future Identities (2013) Executive Summary. The Government Office for Science, London. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/273968/13-524-future-identities-changing-identities-summary.pdf

Gottschall, J. (2013) The Story-telling Animal. Mariner Books,

Szurmak, J., & Thuna, M. (2013). Tell me a story: The use of narrative as a tool for instruction. Conference of the Association of College and Research Libraries, April 10–13, 2013, Indianapolis, IN. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/acrl/conferences/2013/papers

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2017