Of narrative practice I am inspired by Michael White and David Epston, who invented the ways of thinking narrative within therapy. They are the creators and true source of this wonderful way of practicing therapy. Let me explain how it’s useful. In short this tradition is counter to a psychodynamic tradition where causes can be found digging in childhood. The narrative tradition looks at our preferred stories. Those stories can be good or bad and they can be changed. The idea that stories are not fixed but changeable and constructed is important because it opens up the mind for letting go of the wrong stories, that are not helping a person to feel better or have better thoughts of the persons self. One of the ways to change personal stories, is to detach the problem from yourself, by externalising it. When the problem is not you, but instead a way of thinking or a way of acting then it’s easier not to feel determined to repeat the pattern that is personally bothersome.
If a person have a physical illness, that is ruling the persons life, then by understanding that the illness has a story of it’s own, it gets easier to actually see the story of illness as it’s own voice and not as an identity of the person, but as a voice that has influence over the persons life. Seeing the negative thoughts as voices who influences us is useful because we actually often internalise criticism and other negative things being said or done to us and over time we think we are those thoughts and we think that they represent a truth about us. When a person can see problems or negative stories as situations running through life and not necessarily a part of the persons identity, then it’s possible to develop a stronger personal identity. It then becomes easier to decide how much power the illness should have over the life at hand.
In any storytelling there are different levels of getting to know what is going on. So of course if something happened in childhood then it’s part of the story, but the inclination is to focus on the present. What is interesting is to think about how the problem shows up in life here and now and to figure out what the effect is. We will then find ways to deal with it together. Problems are not always just there to bring people down, sometimes problems can be seen as a delicate way of helping a person, for instance to avoid difficult situations or to overcome other problems. When we understand the purpose of the problem or the intrinsic pattern created over time, then it’s possible through reflection to unfold and choose what power any problem should have in a persons life.