Andrew Wright

These notes are intended to provide an elaboration of the idea which I have included in other articles that two key ways in which we can use the word, ‘story’, are:

1 The normal concept of story with a beginning, a middle and end, for example, Little Red Riding Hood. It is not difficult to take one more step and to include incidents from one’s daily life, for example, ‘the day I lost my car keys’.

2 The broader concept of story as an unfolding and weaving of events and stories into a path of life. Our perception of experience and our value system which derive partly from models of values and perceptions and behaviours given to us in stories combined with our individual response to experience together guide us through our days. To some extent they actually determine the experiences which happen to us rather than merely helping us to deal with experience. If we see ourselves as enterprising we are more likely to be enterprising, etc.

I see this life story path that we each follow through another analogy, a book or rather a journal. We type up our past…as we live each moment the keys of the typewriter say what we are doing (I am writing this article and waiting for the family to be ready to go roller blading…). On the next pages what have we got? On my next pages I have lightly pencilled notes about what might happen. I have a good chance of living for some more years yet but I am open to the idea of serious illness. I assume that my young children will just grow up but who knows they might be in some terrible accident…and so on. Some people have the next pages in their life story book typed out and not in note form. I have been told that a shot man will look with total disbelief and horror as he is propelled into a future which is not indicated in any way in the next pages of his journal.
I believe that some counsellors specialise in helping people to recover from trauma. Something occurred which knocked the patient off the safety of their life story path into an experience which did not fit in with their expectations and their readiness to cope. The job of the counsellor is to help the person to find a new path or to modify their previous path in a way which allows them to cope with this new experience.

To summarise: I am talking about two ways of using the word ‘story’…the individual story with a beginning, a middle and an end and the unfolding life path story which guides us day by day.

The two types of story affect each other significantly.

The choice of stories to tell or indeed to read to ourselves is guided by our values, perceptions, feelings and needs deriving from the life path story in which we live. On the whole we look for stories to reassure us rather than choosing stories which offer utterly different value systems.

The life path story, at the same time, is continually strengthened or modified by the experience of individual stories.

The long and short of it is that every time we choose a story to read or tell to our students we are offering them a value system and a behavioural system. If we say, ‘But this story is only a bit of light entertainment. It is not meant to be serious!’ Then that is what is being offered…and that is fine, because we all need a bit of light entertainment at times but for young people in our care, surely we must also offer stories which might contribute to other values and perceptions and offer other behaviours in order to help the children to establish a life path story which is good for them and helps them to deal with changing experiences and not only the present circumstances they are in.

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