After food and shelter, man’s basic need is story. I read this a few days back in The Hindu, but have forgotten who said it. Stories fascinate us. Most of the great lessons of life were taught to us in the form of stories when we were children.
The life of each one of us is a bundle of stories, stories we tell us about ourselves as well as those told by others about us. These stories create our reality to the extent they determine our perceptions and feelings, and hence our actions. In our stories, we may see ourselves as the hero, the victim, the villain, or anything. Our life is completely influenced by these roles we assume. Consequently, if we wish to make changes in our life, it is necessary to make changes in the story we script for ourselves.
In psychology, there is a whole therapeutic process known as Narrative Therapy. According to Michael White, a theorist and practitioner of Narrative Therapy, we construct the meaning of life in interpretive stories which are treated as “truth”. Narrative Therapy encourages clients to script their stories in such a way that they emerge as courageous victors.
People go to a therapist because they have psychological problems. In other words, their lives have become problem-saturated stories. Problem-saturated stories make us live in negative ways. Narrative Therapy argues that people can continually and actively reauthor their lives. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. You can begin a new story for your life today.
The Hollywood movie, Legally Blonde, tells the story of a girl named Elle Woods. She is in love with a young man named Warner who gives her up when he gains admission to Harvard Law School. Elle is devastated. She could have written a problem-saturated script for her life. Instead she takes up the problem as a challenge. The potential victim becomes the heroine because of the script Elle writes for herself. She takes the situation as a challenge. Putting aside her superficial attitude to life (shopping, parties, and the like have been her specialties), she starts studying and aces the entrance test to Harvard Law School. Warner, however, is now engaged to another woman. But Elle keeps scripting a positive story for herself. She becomes a brilliant student. She is invited by a faculty member, a famous attorney, to join him in defending a rich young woman accused of murdering her husband. Elle does a fabulous job in the court and wins the case. She becomes famous. Now Warner returns to her, trying to win her back. But Elle is no more interested in him now. The challenges she has overcome have elevated her to a greater level of consciousness. She rejects Warner.
Like Elle, each one of us can write positive scripts for ourselves at any time, on any day. What if Devdas had written an alternative story for himself when faced with challenges vis-à-vis Paro?
“Life … is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” lamented Shakespeare’s Macbeth when he had created a big mess out of his greed for power. But life need not be such a bizarre tale, unless we want to make it so. The simple truth is that we keep on creating ourselves with the stories we script for ourselves.