Difficulties arise not because we have a story, perhaps a sad or painful story, but because we become attached to our stories and make them an essential part of our very selves.Rachel Freed, The Importance of Telling Our Stories, HuffPost, Nov 2011
I listen to stories for a living. It’s important work. The stories are important and so are the clients who tell them, which is why we, at the Montfort Group, are dedicating the first part of 2018 to blogging about our own stories, and those that have moved us.
We all have stories – including therapists.
And today, this therapist’s story is that she can’t stand writing. I’d rather drop to the floor and grunt through 50 push-ups than write. But here I am with a deadline to meet by producing several paragraphs before bed. I’m not happy. I’m not only unhappy. I’m angry. Angry that this doesn’t come more easily when my colleagues seem to drop prose off their fingertips and onto the keyboard without breaking a nail. It’s aggravating and frankly humiliating. (I’ve been swearing and mumbling as I push through this blog like it is 50 push ups).
My resistance to the process is well known. I procrastinate with incredible predictability. And when I compare what I’ve written to others, I shut down. Really, what is the point of trying? How could I be ever as eloquent? Or as thoughtful? Or as deep?
I’m not sure when I became attached to the story that I hate writing but as I think about it now, it was later in my career. I had a positive early start. I skipped 8th grade English, published poetry in 9th grade, wrote to world famous authors about their writing and studied to be a high school English teacher. I never hesitated to shape my thoughts and arguments in a well-crafted essay but something changed as I stepped into the marketing world where the written word was used to persuade and sell.
Pieces were edited. “We are taking a different direction, could put a different spin on it?” Then the re-write was submitted. “Great thanks, the committee likes this, but we need a re-write on the first half of it? And here’s more information to be included.” Re-written, opined upon, edited again and distributed for consumption – a process I found challenging and humiliating. The fun was gone and through the years I believed I wasn’t good enough. And from that belief, came the feeling of defeat.
The irony is that I have received enthusiastic feedback about pieces I’ve written. (Eulogies have become a specialty in recent times). Truthfully, I find great satisfaction when I feel like I’ve produced a really good piece of writing. It is the process I resist and, if I’m being honest, I have a fear of being judged. What if I don’t connect with the reader? What if people think I’m a wing nut?
As therapists, we sometimes struggle with sharing our own stories for fear of exposure and of being judged by our clients. Aren’t we supposed to have the answers and to be held to a higher standard because of our training and insight? The truth is, like our clients, we become attached to the narratives created from our own personal relationships and experiences. Perhaps telling them will offer a kind of transformation by releasing ourselves from a story that has kept us stuck.
So as I blog my way through the next 12 months, there will be many opportunities to rethink the story of how much I resist writing. Horror of horrors, I may learn that by embracing the process rather than resisting it, I can tell stories that make a difference and that, in itself, is plenty good enough. See you next month!