Every experience has a story behind it. Without knowing that story, how can we ever expect to understand the experience. Therapeutic and psycho-spiritual change requires know one’s story. How can you know where you are going if you don’t know where you have been?
When telling one’s “story”, the continuity of flow creates unlimited potential for insight and meaning-making through the endless sequence of thoughts and beliefs that begin to merge together. Braud and Anderson (1998) explained that the narrative process encourages reconceptualizations since each shared experience explores with a new, or different, perspective. Braud and Anderson indicated that the constant fluctuation of one’s story may illuminate “new events in awareness—possibilities and realities scarcely imagined with the stories’ thrust” (p. 23). In the retelling and re-experiencing, questers become aware of aspects that they were previously unaware of, and previously ostracized experiences can be found to be meaningful. Furthermore, the storyteller’s meaning-making structure is in constant fluctuation through the movement of time and experience. Consequently, when revisiting one’s experience, the construction of meaning is now undertaken with new tools. Thus, there are no meaningless experiences, just meaningless interpretations.
Through the transformed relationship with the experience, facilitated by the narrative process, Mishara (1995) stressed the potential for healing to occur. In addition, there is a change in the participant’s total bodily attitude and in his or her entire being or sense of self. Telling one’s story creates a reflective distance and insight “by means of a ‘reversal’ bought about by change in total bodily attitude” (p. 186). Mishara defined reversals between the roles of self and otherness, in addition to active/passive reverse. Braud and Anderson (1998) indicated that “the increased wholeness resulting from these new integrations favors greater well-being” of the individual (p. 44). From an incomplete worldview, this reversal permits other, previously separated and fragmented voices, to be heard. In addition to the individual, Braud and Anderson explained that through storytelling and listening, assimilation of various voices and experiences occurs and “facilitates integration and wholeness, [and] health and well-being of the individual and of the greater group” (p. 46).
Telling one’s story not only interprets the past from a new perspective, it creates a fresh view of the present moment, and connects the future (Braud & Anderson, 1998; Madigan, 2010). The narrative process encourages the storyteller to re-explore his or her experience (Madigan, 2010), similar to the traditional ritual used by Native Americans (Gill, 1982). “Storied evidence is gathered not to determine if events actually happened but about the meaning experienced by people whether or not the events are accurately described” (Polkinghorne, 2007, p. 9). When one tells his or her story, new meanings and epiphanies can arise, giving purpose to events that may have until now appeared random and/or meaningless.
Braud, W., & Anderson, R. (1998). Transpersonal research methods for the social sciences: Honoring human experience. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Gill, S. (1982). Native American religions: An introduction (2nd ed.). Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing.
Madigan, S. (2010). Narrative therapy. American Psychological Association (APA).
Mishara, A. L. (1995). Narrative and psychotherapy-The phenomenology of healing. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 49(2), 180–95. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/213181892?accountid=25304
Polkinghorne, D. E. (2007). Validity issues in narrative research. Qualitative Inquiry, 13(4), 471–486. doi:10.1177/1077800406297670