Alright, it’s time for me to go deep again. I guess a diet of only hydrangeas, potting benches, and scarecrows just isn’t doing it for me. It seems that unless I take the time to consider the more important things of life – the bigger story, all these other things…although nice, only serve to fill up my days…which frankly can leave me empty and a bit ornery at times. And if I’m not careful, they could eventually lead to a very boring, inconsequential life…story. I know…I’m deep, huh?!
Well last month I introduced you to Dr. Kelly Flanagan when I re-posted his “Words From a Father to His Daughter (From the Makeup Aisle)”. Dr. Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and a gifted writer (e.g., eBook – “Marriage Manifesto” and blog UnTangled). Almost 2 years ago to the day he demonstrated his writing chops when he posted “Your Story Starts NOW” – where he unpacks the premise that there’s a narrative being told through each of our lives…and then hits home the importance of our taking ownership of that story, regardless of where we’ve been or where we are. (Which is so RYG!) He deftly does this by walking us through an exercise he does with his counseling clients. Keep reading, you’ll see what I mean…
Whether we realize it or not, most of us look at life through the lens of story. And deep down, many of us believe our story is pretty much over. We have life-yet-to-live, but we feel the writing is already on the wall.
One of the first goals of psychotherapy is to recover a sense of hope for our lives. If hope can be reclaimed in the early sessions of therapy, the goals of the therapy are more likely to be achieved.
In my psychotherapy practice, I will often ask new clients to engage in an exercise, in which they view their lives through the lens of story:
- Imagine your life as a movie.
- Imagine the painful experiences in your life as the early scenes of the movie, developing the character for the audience, showing the viewers what must be overcome and how the character must change in order to do so.
- Imagine your character’s decision to begin therapy as a pivotal point in the plot, a turning point for your character.
- In your favorite kind of movie—the kind that moves you and inspires you—what would your character do next? What must they overcome? How would they do it? How would you want the character to be shaped and formed in the process?
- Write out a movie proposal, using your experiences as the plot development and yourself as the main character. Make the script as detailed as you would like, but write a coherent story about how your character overcomes what you have been through.
Sometimes, when we are close to the pain, it’s hard to step outside of it and imagine a different story for ourselves. But by casting ourselves as a character in our own story, we may experience a more objective reaction to our circumstances, and we may be inspired to become the kind of character we would love and cheer for.
The bottom-line of the exercise is this: in a good movie, all the junk that brought you to therapy would happen in the opening scenes. The therapy scene would be the beginning of an inspiring movie, not the end of it.
And you get to decide how the rest of your story is written.
[To read more of Dr. Kelly’s posts, click on the image above or go to drkellyflanagan.com.]
Now, if you’re saying…I didn’t have some horrific experience in my past that would require me to go to therapy…so this exercise isn’t for me. And I would simply say, don’t rule yourself out…we all have something to overcome and a bigger story to be told. So get over the horrific experience part and simply consider where you are now in life and where you’d like to be…and then write a compelling story on how’d you’d get there…what you did, what you overcame, etc. And if you don’t have a composition book handy or don’t feel like writing a complete story, at least consider where you’d like to go and how you’d get there…then identify the obstacles that could get in your way…and how you’d deal with them.
So what are you waiting for? Do it…write that story…that richer story, the story you want to lead. Redeem your ground…redeem your story.
[Thanks Dr. Kelly…I really appreciate your insight and your way with words. The RYG story started with Britt and me trying to redeem our story at home. Your posts have helped me do that…and it’s our hope that today’s post will help others at least start to do the same.]
Take care all,