Since early on in this retreat the participants have been thinking and working on what we call a “personal narrative.” The idea behind your personal narrative is that you have a story—you may not be conscious of your story—but you have a story.
Is your story—your narrative—healthy?
Is your personal narrative one that makes sense of your history?
Does your personal narrative respect the different parts of yourself?
Does your personal narrative point you in a direction that is compelling or satisfying?
What kind of people does your personal narrative invite into your life?
A healthy personal narrative is one for which you take full ownership. It is your story, your understanding, your way of making meaning of your life. It is not static. It is not a list of accomplishments. It is not simply an explanation, but rather a wholehearted description of you, your life and your purpose. It should be inclusive of your varied roles in life—for me that includes being a husband, a counselor, a father, a grandfather, a son, and a sibling—because all of these are part of my story.
A healthy personal narrative should not be self-dismissive. And there are many subtle ways we can dismiss or diminish ourselves. For example, when some participants at this lab started to share their narratives they would say, “Well, this is just something I put together over the past couple of days, I don’t know if it’s any good.” This is a self-dismissive way to start one’s narrative. All of us quickly learned to start our narratives with more pride of authorship.
Our experiences during the first part of this lab fed our narratives. We did many things to help ourselves reinterpret past events in our lives, we connected with ourselves through sensory awareness activities, we reevaluated our relationships, we accessed higher states of consciousness, and all of these experiences contributed to our personal narratives.
Then, we each took five minutes to share our narratives. Limiting the amount of time you have to present your narrative is key to creating a coherent and well-integrated personal narrative. If you go on and on and on, you will dilute yourself and make it impossible for you—or anyone else—to hold your narrative in their minds. Ultimately, a personal narrative can be reduced a few key sentences, and in doing this we create a potent sense of ourselves.
There are many valuable parts of this experience of writing our personal narratives. Writing our narratives is valuable—but so is sharing them. And then we get to notice how feel about our narratives, and many participants started to fine tune and edit themselves (their narratives) after they presented them. It was evident to me that the more they fine tuned their personal narratives, the more congruent they became.
This is the first time I’ve written and presented my personal narrative, and I found myself and clarified myself—deeply—in the process. I’ve thought about sharing my narrative on our website. If there appears to be a lot of interest I may do so. Please comment and share your thoughts on this. Also, please share our posts with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.