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  • Alice Rossetter

Write your own story

On our recent holiday in Córdoba a new desire surfaced from deep within me - I wanted to go souvenir shopping. I was surprised because I've never seen the point in souvenirs before. But I was suddenly drawn to the idea of marking the occasion, of organizing our memories together. After further reflection, I realized that actually this has a lot to do with my son and my desire to help him to create memories. At the grand old age of four he's grappling with deep philosophical issues like the passage of time, age and death, so I feel it's the least I can do to be honest. We chose these beautiful wind-chimes and every now and then we talk about where we went, what we did and who we met.

Since then, this idea of creating memories, and a narrative around those memories, has started creeping into my work. Over the years I've noticed that those clients who have lived through traumatic events or circumstances, tend to have quite different memories to those that haven't. Their memories tend to be more scarce, hazier and more confusing. Often the meaning associated with these memories is very chaotic. Was it right or wrong? Should that have happened to me? What could I have done differently?

Working with clients like these I have always found it to be very powerful to simply start re-telling their story together. Recently, I asked one client to think about what she wanted to achieve during therapy. The next session she came back with a timeline for three specific years of her life. Completely unprompted, she said that she realized that she hadn't processed the events that occurred during that period of time, and that was what she needed to do.

When we start to narrate our own story in this way it's not just a case of organizing or processing, it has to do with dominating our story, telling it how we want to tell it, and deciding what we think about what happened. During this work the balance of power tends to shift from what's being told to the teller. As the story starts to emerge the focus tends to shift too, from the past to the future. What does this mean for me now? What can I do with this? How can I move forward?

Will these wind-chimes help my son to organize his memories? I don't know. I hope so. What I do know is that they're a beautiful reminder of the power of telling a story in a way that liberates us to create more stories.

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