When clients attend their first therapy session, one of the important aspects of our initial encounter is to give them space to tell the story of what brings them, uninterrupted. Not only does this space let the client know that they will be heard and respected, it also offers us both a wealth of information about how they perceive themselves just now. You might think that your life story is one consistent narrative that doesn't change, that more is just added day by day as life goes on. Surprisingly, this is not the case.
The story you tell and the way you tell your story is affected by many things, for example your mood, what you are thinking about. who you are telling, and what has been happening recently.
Our stories about ourselves are generally flexible. For example, we look at memories in a new light depending on what has happened more recently, and we reinterpret our lives as our circumstances move on and our perspective changes. Our life stories may be liberating and energising, or they may be sapping and constraining. Most often, they will be a mix of helpful and not helpful.
Listening to the way you talk about yourself and what is happening for you can be very beneficial. Does your language tell you you feel you are fighting a battle? Or being a victim? Do you perhaps talk as if life is passing you by?
When you hear yourself telling the same unhelpful story repeatedly, this might be an indication that there is something trying to call your attention. Finding the right space to explore it, with a counsellor or other trusted listener may well be just what you need to shift what's stuck and help you create a more compelling tale.
Originally published on Counselling Directory in 2016 (updated since)