Characteristics of the narrative worldwiew

by Jill Freedman
We work with meaning, and we believe that the meaning of life events comes from the stories that people tell themselves and each other about those events.

The same events can be storied in a variety of ways and these different ways will make a difference in how life is experienced.

However, in order to make a lasting and significant difference, new stories must "fit" and they must be different in particular ways.

The dominant discourses in our society powerfully influence what gets "storied" and how it gets storied.

A discourse is a system of words, actions, rules, and beliefs that share common values. Particular discourses sustain particular worldviews. We might even think of a discourse as a worldview in action.

Example: The meaning of the word "men" in the phrase "all men are created equal" in the Declaration of Independence has changed as the discourses surrounding who can own land, vote, and hold political office have changed. It originally referred to adult, white, male, landowners. It now refers, in many people's minds at least, to adults of all genders and skin colors whether or not they own property.

Discourses tend to be invisible, that is, they are taken for granted as part of the fabric of "reality."

In narrative therapy, we seek to identify the discourses that support problematic stories.

Locating problems in particular discourses helps us see people as separate from the problems that beset them. That is, not to locate problems as residing in individual minds or in "dysfunctional families," but in discourses.

When we succeed in this perceptual shift, we see a whole different world, one in which the discourses that support problems become more visible. In this world, we can more easily oppose, undermine, or alter the influence of those discourses, making robust, viable non-problematic life stories more possible.

Jill Freedman

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