As humans, we have been telling stories for eons. We even tell ourselves stories to make sense of the world. We place ourselves in those stories and give ourselves characters to create certainty and reduce our anxiety around the events of our lives.

Sometimes we are the hero of our stories. Sometimes we are the victim. We might even call ourselves the villain at times. There is no limit to the personas we give ourselves in our narratives.

The problem is that sometimes these stories can be dysfunctional and sometimes we may not even be aware of the stories we are telling ourselves. Becoming aware of our narrative can empower us to act.

One of the ways to become conscious of our narrative is to gain distance from it. When we are ‘in’ the story, it is difficult to see; looking at it from the outside can allow for some objectivity. You can do this with a coach or mentor who is prepared to listen to you tell the story and ask questions about it. They will provide feedback and look for anomalies, challenging you about them. David Drake, one of the foremost experts on narrative coaching talks about discourse as a ‘powerful’ tool for uncovering stories [1].

In the discussion, (or in your journaling if you’re working through it yourself), consider the following aspects:

  • What is the story? What are the events that make up the story? What are the actions of the characters in the story?
  • Who are you in the story? What identity do you assume?
  • How does the identity you adopt impact your behaviour? How do you perform as a character in the story?

In discourse and distance from the story, you may start to develop consciousness of aspects of your narrative you would like to change.

[1] Drake, D. B. (2010). Narrative Coaching. In E. Cox, T. Bachkirova, & D. Clutterbuck (Eds.), The Complete Handbook of Coaching (pp. 120-131). London: Sage.