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  • Writer's pictureCarissa Hardage

What's the Story? Let's Talk Narrative Work.

Once upon a time... a phrase we all know well, isn't it? There is good reason we spend much of our lives taking in stories through books, television, movies, and more. Our brains are wired for storytelling. Because we take in so much information each day our brain has to make sense of that information in order to store it in memory and create space for new information. To do that, we create a narrative.

The word narrative means just that, the connecting of events or information in a way that makes sense.. a story. Not only do we tell ourselves stories everyday to make sense of our thoughts and perceptions about present situations, but we also hold a deeply rooted unconscious narrative based on the "starter story" or the story we created as a child about who we are, how the world works, and how we should operate in order to live in that world. This "starter story," shapes our thoughts, beliefs and values- which influence everything else, experience after experience, age after age.

Here is how it happens: Our thinking brain (or left brain) begins formation after we are born and it does so by interacting with others and by experiencing events and circumstances. When we take in information and interactions consistently, like with a parent, sibling, or grandparent, we have thoughts that form messages that are assembled in a narrative to create meaning. The narrative then becomes the motivator, which influences incoming thoughts, which leads to feelings, which leads to action or inaction, and repeat. Overtime, an unchallenged core narrative becomes deeply ingrained in our brain through repetition and it becomes our "truth." Unfortunately, the truth we create is not always the truth of reality, and here is where narrative coaching comes in.

If our foundational narrative is formed as children, it becomes ingrained in our neural pathways overtime. The problem is... the story is formed by a child. In children, the higher functions of the brain are not fully formed so the ability to rationalize, assess, or analyze information beyond basic need is limited. As children we create the story that helps us survive and receive love and affection. True or not, the story works because it helps us grow up in the environment we are in. When this narrative is engrained deeply, it often becomes unconscious- and unless it is intentionally uncovered the result is autopilot functioning in adulthood.

This brings us to the point of a narrative coach. The narrative created as a child should always be evaluated as an adult. It is healthy, necessary, and beneficial to self-awareness. Exploring trauma, addiction or mental health crises in light of the "starter story" can lead to

recovery and healthy functioning when done with the help of a counselor or mental health professional. Exploring vision, purpose, emotional imbalance, toxic thoughts, or spiritual disintegration in light of story can open the door for an entirely new narrative, shifting the focus from the implications of the past on the present to the implications of the present on the future.

In other-words, when we understand what we believe and how that belief came to be, we can decide if it still works for us. If not, we can decide what is actually true and create a new narrative that will allow an engaged, active self in the future. Behavior change, thought awareness, self-love, soul-wholeness... the possibilities are endless! Are you up for the exploration?

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