But How Has It Strengthened You?
Sometimes we retell our stories of trials and hard times. Whether the audience is a friend, coworker, counselor or family member, take a moment to ask yourself how you retell your difficult stories to the people in your life. What parts of the story do you focus on? How do you feel after telling the story? What are others’ reactions to you after hearing the story?
Just like sharing good news with those who are close with us, we also tend to share the difficult times with those we trust and feel close to. What I want to ask you today is not what happened, but how has it strengthened you?
Admittedly, it sometimes feels relieving and healing to tell a story to someone about a difficult experience. It is a form of self-expression, emotion-regulation and a healthy way of coping. What we don’t always notice is how retelling the story over and over can reinforce the story and the impact it has on our lives, or how we feel about certain people.
We can very easily perpetuate feeling like a victim through our story, for instance. Then all of the sudden we become victims in other areas of our lives. In some stories we are the martyr. Then all of the sudden are playing the martyr role more than we ought to be. And it can hurt relationships as well as how we view the world through our own individual lenses.
So Asking Those Same Questions As Before, Let’s Think About Our Story In A Different Way
1.“What parts of the story do you focus on?”
As important as it is to be able to share your stories with trusted individuals as a way of taking care of yourself and beginning the healing process, it can have an opposite effect if you are not telling your stories properly. If you continue to focus purely on your roles in the story; the suffering that took place, and the fear of the unknown, you can get stuck.
We all too often get stuck in our stories instead of letting them heal us and let us grow.
2. “How do you feel after telling the story?”
After telling your story, notice how you feel. Physiologically how did your body respond to
that story? Are you shaking? Nervous or nauseous? Are you sweaty or fatigued? This can be an indicator of two things:
a. The story and experience are still fresh and new. Before you can begin seeing your story from another point of view, you must let the dust settle some.
b. The role of yourself in the story has already begun to reinforce your identity. The story may have already begun to shift your identity into the role of your story.
The more difficult stories you have to share, the easier and more likely it is that the shift has already begun.
3. “What are others’ reactions to you after hearing the story?”
Does your audience know what to say or how to respond? Think about a time when your friend shared a difficult story with you. It might have been hard to hear because maybe your friend was hurt, or suffered a great deal. As you listened to his story you might have become emotional or sympathetic towards him. No doubt it is hard to listen to what others have gone through in their lives.
Now imagine if they told that same story in a way that conveys strength, forgiveness,
change, or growth. I bet you might feel differently both about the story and the person who told it.
Same goes for you. Think about your story. Think about how you have retold that story to yourself and to others. How it has shaped your identity, your strengths and weaknesses?
What about your ability to grow and learn and become a stronger person?
In other words, But How Did It Strengthen You?
I would love to hear your feedback of what it is like to tell your story in this way. Comment below if you want to share!
Katie Porter, M.A., LPC, PLLC, CFNC