Making Meaning Through Journal Writing: Rewriting Our Stories 6

MOST PEOPLE carry some form of story around with then. When someone asks who we are, we recite what we do for a living, the roles we play (mother, daughter, husband, father, son, caregiver). And when we tell the stories of our lives, we repeat the things we’ve decided are our truths. Perhaps we were raised in a dysfunctional family, with alcoholic or abusive parents. Or perhaps we grew up in a warm, nurturing home. Either way, what we say about our families of origin are part of our personal stories, part of who we think we are. And we experience life through the framework of this story.

When we journal reflectively — that is, when we write about our past and look at the why’s and how’s of what happened and how it affects us today — we are creating a story and making meaning of our lives. During this process, we usually reinforce the story we always tell ourselves.

Imagine being able to create a new story about your past, who you are, what you can accomplish, and what your future could be like. Reflective Journaling allows us to do just that by reframing our past and our sense of who we are in the world.

For example, as the only girl in a family of six children (that’s right, I had five brothers) I carried a story throughout my life about my brothers beating me up, about having to learn to be tough and to fight for what I wanted. One day, as I was writing about my childhood, I began to question my story. Did my brothers really beat me up? As I searched my memory, I realized that only one of the five ever physically hurt me. Certainly, they were rough with each other, and I was often teased, but for the most part, they left me alone.

And then it hit me that most of my brothers had actually been rather easy on me. With this new perspective, I could no longer see myself as a victim of cruelty, but as the privileged child I was, with high status as the only girl.

When one’s self-image is suddenly transformed from victim to advantaged, the heart opens to new possibilities. This is what happened to me. Suddenly, I could see my life differently; rather than view my past in a negative light, I could appreciate the advantages I had. Not only did this allow me to rewrite my past — and my attitude towards my brothers — it allowed me to rewrite my present.

Today, I invite you to look at some negative aspect of your personal story in a new way.

Take something from your childhood that wounded you and examine everything you think is true. Search your memory as honestly and thoroughly as you can. Is the story that you have carried about accurate? Is there another way to look at what happened? Can you now, as an adult, view the situation through another’s eyes?

If you are able to view a significant event or impression about your past in a new way, ask in what ways that changed perspective might affect how you see yourself today and how you can create a better future.

When we write, we tell stories. And it’s up to us to decide which stories we want to tell. What story — what meaning — are you creating today?



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6 thoughts on “Making Meaning Through Journal Writing: Rewriting Our Stories

  • Renee Cassese

    How true that we rewrite the stories of our lives to fit the image we have of ourselves, whether or not that image is accurate, or still holds true. Writing and more writing reveals the truth beneath our outer images so we discover who we are at heart and soul.
    thanks so much Amber for helping all of us to find our truths through journaling

  • Mary

    For me this was the best post yet. It changed the way I looked at certain aspects of my life. I thought I had conflicting memories but I realize now that They were bunched together as if one person rather than separate people.
    Thank you!

  • Sharon Lippincott

    Exactly one year ago I had an experience almost identical to yours, though mine involved girls at school rather than brothers. How liberating it was to realize that LB did NOT “ruin my life”, and that I’d actually been quite happy in the second half of grade school. In fact, if I’d gotten what I thought I wanted, I would not have wanted it at all… I had not been losing sleep over this, but am so happy to shift my focus! Thanks for another example to cite!

  • Amber Lea Starfire

    Renee, Mary, and Sharon, thank you for your comments. I find that questioning my stories, especially the negative/painful ones I’ve carried forward since childhood or adolescence is a great exercise for personal growth. Once I’m aware of a story, I can also ask: How have I benefited from this story? and Does this story still serve me? If not, how can I reframe/rewrite this story so that it does serve me as I move forward in my life? These are not easy questions to answer, but enlightening when I am honest with myself.