Self story

I would love to live

like a river flows,

carried by the surprise

of its own unfolding

John O’Donohue

As the telling of a story deepens, it becomes more therapeutic. As I journal, I notice there is a quality of depth, a feeling of descent as I continue to write. As the descent continues, the practice of just writing what comes to mind becomes more therapeutic.

Is this the value of free association that Freud was originally advocating? Let the person talk until they land into a depth of feeling that speaks some significance or meaning.

Can story still be in the here and now? Story in a coaching or therapeutic relationship has often been looked down upon as a ‘resistance’, or a ‘projection’, a defence against an interlocution that might reveal unwanted truths. And yet our mythology, our novels, our poetry, our erotica, they all make you feel something vividly.

The drama of our stories – their contradictions, fantasy, horror, absurdity, lustfulness, hatred and self-centred heroism – drive our feeling. We project the dramas within onto the canvas of our novels, our poetry, our erotica; they are personal mythologies that collectively infuse the cultural narrative.

The images created in these forms and the effect they have, impact our feeling and our sense of who we are. They become not just stories but visceral exchanges that unfold our depth and realisation of the self.

The challenge for us are the nagging internal questions of “is it real?”, “does it matter?”, can I grasp it? Our desire for certainties can lead to stories that close us down, make us rigid, snuff out potential. The desire to grasp, to understand, to have some kind of final destination kills the vitality that kindled the story in the first place.

Stories are the tremor of our day-to-day experience of the world. They are the winds that whip up the oceans of our emotion and drive the clouds of thought and feeling across the sky of the mind.

The guiding embrace of presence

A candle floating in the dark
Image: Martin Davies

In so many ways, suffering – when allowed – looks like love. Our cry of suffering is the cry for reunion: it is the calling toward home and the awakening of our True Nature

Georgi Johnson, Nondual Therapy: The Psychology of Awakening

I have hidden myself through fear of rejection, fear of hurt. I hid myself through conformity, through alcohol, through performing, through self-deprecating humour. There had been no profit in standing out at the schools I attended, although some had the courage to do so. Looking back there is a sense of shame in this gradual conformity to the status quo that typified my adolescence and early adulthood. The desire to be popular and liked overpowered the desire to be creative and independent. That overpowered desire eventually became covered up by the shifting sands of my life.

There is a remembered feeling of fear arising out of the darkness, fear of the night. Acknowledging and feeling this fear unfolded that unpleasantness into an expanding light, an anticipation and vitality. The here-and-now memory of that creative and solitary child’ s surroundings brings me back to the place where that creative urge was first remembered. To an image that is no longer a memory, but a re-living, I am seeing everything again through that boys eyes and feel the beckoning arm of life. A life that has already been lived in one way, but stands to be lived by this boy again. Lived not as a recurrence but a re-imagined, reunited return to the guiding embrace of presence.