native_american_storytellerWe are the stories that we tell.  Tell to others, tell to ourselves.  And what’s great about that is that stories can change.   One of the biggest conflicts between cultures with written language and oral cultures (those that learn by memorization and story telling, which have oral histories) is that written language makes time stop and stories become static structured things like bricks.  They never change, they are comfortingly dependable.  In oral culture, the past is always now because there’s no reason to talk about it if it isn’t relevant to now.  Stories morph to fit the audience, the situation, the people telling them.  The best story tellers would tell complex stories with no set ending so that everyone could take from them what they needed.  Two different, contradictory, and yet satisfactory means of looking at how to make meaning out of our lives.

I recommend that when you look at the story of your life, particularly moments in it which are unhealed and foundational such as childhood trauma, you take the oral approach, because the story is ‘now’.  It’s still living inside you.  And it’s still affecting you and everything you do.  For example, the story of being left out or abandoned by family members.  Not having a Dad or Mom in your life, not having family that accepts you can be devastating and is something that, if not healed, becomes a handicap to overcome in our psyche or something we work with every day to get over.  But what if we rewrote the story?  As an adult you can look back at the family that didn’t accept you and ask the question, are they people you would want to be accepted by?  If you met them on the street today, would you want to join in with them?  Perhaps not.  You might look at the situation from your current experience and think about the fact that you were better off not having been enmeshed with them.

Perhaps not having a Mom or a Dad allowed that parent to keep their harmful behavior away from you during your formative years and so when they were ready (not you, you were always ready) and they could interact with you appropriately they come back into your life.  Or perhaps they didn’t leave for the reasons that you think, because as children we internalize events not having any other frame of reference.  As an adult you can revisit those events, talk with adults who were there or on the outskirts of it, and gain a different perspective.

Healing something from our past isn’t necessarily about “getting over it” or “working deep within to find the problem and then acting to heal it.”  Sometimes it’s about looking at the situation and reframing it.  It’s about how we’ve told the story and it’s been told to us.  If you start telling a new version of the story, perhaps that will help the healing begin and allow you to see everything else in a new light as well.