Core Assumptions About Story Engagement

Reflection & Engagement

The following questions are also located on pages 7-8 of your Course Workbook

There is always more to our story than we can fathom, so we get to approach our stories with curiosity, remaining open to more memory and more meaning. However we know that the deeper we go, there will be a minefield to cross because all formative stories involve some level of shame, contempt, and dissociation. Why? Because we cannot leave the past behind. Unaddressed tragedies from our formative past will echo into our present and future through a process of re-enactment. Therefore with courage, compassion, and wisdom we must invite others to help us re-engage our stories, moving beyond pity to care and honor.

1. Have you ever had an experience where you thought you were done dealing with a personal story that had a negative impact on your life (perhaps come to a place of resolve), but been surprised when that story re-emerges in an intrusive or triggering way? Take a moment and reflect on that experience and what it brought up for you.

2. Can you recall a time when you thought you were offering goodness to someone by taking them seriously in the midst of what they were sharing, but they responded in a way (defensive, dismissive, mocking, offended) where you felt like ‘I shouldn’t have asked that’? What did you initially sense they were needing? What did you say or do? How did you react to their surprising response to your engagement? It’s certainly possible you could have made a mistake, but it’s also a huge possibility you could have gotten close to something raw.

3. Have you ever been surprised by a strong reaction you’ve had with someone’s engagement of your story? Can you recall a personal experience where you had a visceral response of shame or contempt that led you to depart from an engagement either literally or dissociatively? What was the context? This happens at such a subconscious level that it can really catch us off guard. When this happens, we are usually connecting to stories that have been locked up. Our stories are going to play out whether we want them to or not.

4. Think of someone you know well and consider how something from their past continues to influence their present. Is this person you are thinking of able to see the link? And if not, what keeps them from being able to do so? Alright, now it’s your turn! Spend some time reflection on an experience from your past that continues to influence your present.

5. Consider a time when someone’s engagement with you or your story felt patronizing. What did they say or do that caused you to feel patronized? How did you respond in that moment? Pity just never feels good and almost always feels diminishing, distancing, and dismissive.