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Narrative Space: Descriptions

This web site is a virtual space intended as an invitation for any visiting to find, develop, sustain, and enhance narrative space in their lives. The following is a detailed description of narrative space, with links to further descriptions of key words and phrases:

There is a certain kind of therapy called Narrative Therapy, which is the source of what we are referring to as Narrative Space. This does not mean that people must go to narrative therapists in order to find narrative space in their life, although that would be one possible way. Narrative space refers to the space that opens up in our lives when we realize that there are many new options and possibilities available to us. We are talking about stories here, the stories that constitute our lives. It is never possible for one story to completely define any person, because as human beings we are more complicated than that. However it is often true that one story can be very influential in defining who we are. We call that the dominant story. For example, it is possible for someone to live out a story of him or herself as a failure, or a bad parent, or a drug addict. In such cases we would say that the dominant story is problem saturated. Such a dominant story can be so pervasive and influential that it becomes difficult to notice anything that does not fit in with that story. If we do notice it, we may not consider it relevant or of any importance. For example, if I am living out a story of myself as a failure, I may not consider it important when I succeed at something. Instead, I may simply get tense and worried, waiting for the other shoe to drop, or for my next failure.

By finding or discovering narrative space, we mean that a door opens up to an alternate story, a sub-plot, another way of looking at myself. This other story will not at first be very clear to me if the dominant story is powerfully defining of myself. Another way to say this is that the plot of the alternate story is not very well expressed or understood. It is a thin plot. If I really prefer one of these alternate stories, and I want to bring such a story forward as more influential in my life, then it is necessary for the plot of that story to be thickened. If the plot becomes thicker or richer, then it will be more prominent and defining of my life and of my identity, of who I am as a person.

To return to my example of having a dominant story of myself as a failure: if I prefer a story of myself as a survivor, then I would have to bring forward examples of times when I survived difficulties in my life. These examples, in order to constitute a true plot, would have to have occurred at various times in the past. I would need to establish links or common themes that would tie these events together.

How do we thicken these plots? We do so through a process of telling and re-telling these alternate preferred stories, and listening to others re-tell these stories in ways which acknowledge us and support us. When another person notices certain qualities in us, or certain purposes, values, or commitments which fit with the alternate story we are interested in, then this will often help to thicken those plots.

If I were to consult with a narrative therapist, he or she would ask me questions that would encourage me to re-engage with my own history around the themes relevant to the alternate story I am most interested in. This re-engagement might very well involve some of the people who have been most influential in my life in relation to this preferred story. There are of course many other possibilities for conversations which would serve to thicken the plots of these alternate stories.

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The creating of narrative space, narrative therapy, and narrative work in general is based on post-structuralist or non-structuralist thought. My understandings of this is informed by the work and writings of Michael White of the Dulwich Centre in Adelaide, Australia. His contribution to my understandings is considerable, but my explanations are my own and I take full responsibility for the content.--[Greg Nooney]
  The content and substance of this entire website is copyrighted ( 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002) by Greg Nooney, with the exception of some images are copyrighted by TASK FORCE ImageGALLERY, NVTech Inc. All rights reserved.
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