I was reading the book ‘Happiness by design’ by behavioural scientist Paul Dolan and one concept he discovered was the idea of narrative traps…which is when our happiness is determined by societal expectations, such as the car, the big house, the high salary, the perfect body, etc. and we spend our lives as slaves to this narrative by working crazy hours and becoming as far as way as possible from happy. This very often conflicts with our own individuality and what would legitimately make us happy such as spending time with family, the freedom to travel, etc. 

But this prompts me to think about how trapped we become within the family narrative. This narrative could be a combination of how they view you (and each other), how they behaved, how they treated you, what they said/didn’t say, etc. 

The narrative is powerful because it is shaped by incredibly negative emotions and we can easily become caught up in this…replaying events in our minds, using it to audition future issues, projecting it onto other relationships or situation, etc. 

The narrative might be true and I would never deny someone their story or what happened to them…and there is a time to really explore the narrative in detail so it can be heard and validated. But often we become trapped in the narrative, our life and identity becomes defined by it as we constantly replay it, like a broken record, and make no progress in our healing process. 

Part of healing is knowing there is a life away from this story we keep replaying, but to free ourselves of it we need find alternative ways of processing the emotions which sit beneath it all. 

How I work as a therapist is always changing based on what I learn and my approach has traditionally been top down, i.e. narrative focused, but I’m now shifting towards a bottom up approach which is very body oriented and helps to explore painful emotions and sensations in the body and use the body as a tool to process to express, discover and let go of the heacy burden of emotional distress we carry around. 

My latest video discussess the family narrative and I work I do to help individuals free themselves from it. 

Feel fee to comment and share.

Take care

Karl

Written by Karl Melvin