Are you going through an "in between" time in your life? Different phrases have been coined to describe times when we are in between: "in the meantime", "in transition," "between gigs," "in limbo," and the list goes on. During these periods of life, we aren't always clear on what's next. We have to learn to find solace in what is present and fulfillment in the process of creating what can be. These life moments often follow a trauma, loss, or a setback. We aren't going down the path that we thought we were -- an incident interrupted our flow. We are forced to start a new chapter. We have to find a new path to blaze. We have to heal so that we can move through these times into something new. Writing is a key in this process. Writing brings clarity, and story is a component of our healing. Thinking about all of this led me to read the book, Redirect: Changing The Stories We Live By by Timothy D. Wilson.
I am the type of person that likes to read books that fall into my lap and seem to either speak to what I'm feeling myself or am watching others go through. Currently, as a story consultant, I'm watching a lot of writers go through a time of transition. They may not have gotten jobs this staffing season on the current television shows. They missed an opportunity to move toward their dream. In an effort to help them through this time of transition, I'm thinking about how I can further guide them toward using their writing to heal. In Redirect, Wilson uses story to help people change. The ideas he explores are similar to the ideas in my newest book, Change Your Story, Change Your Life: A Path To Success. In my book, I use story tools to teach people how to become the author of their life so that their life can become the story that they want to be living. In Redirect, one of the things Wilson delves into is the idea of the health benefits of writing after trauma. Wilson writes, "What if we haven't succeeded in making a traumatic event seem understandable and predictable? Are there story-editing approaches that we can use in our everyday lives to hasten this process? Indeed there are." He suggests, "...people wait to have some distance from the problem, then write about it for at least fifteen minutes on each of three or four consecutive days... This is a simple yet powerful way of making sense of confusing, upsetting episodes in our lives, giving us some closure and allowing us to move on." Wilson goes on to make a link between gaining distance from the event and understanding the why. With the why, Wilson suggests taking an alternate approach. He writes, "Instead of immersing yourself in the original experience, you take a step back and watch it unfold from the perspective of a neutral observer. Then you focus on why you feel the way you do, rather than on the feelings themselves." There were four groups in this experiment:
1) Those who immersed and focused on feelings
2) Those who immersed and thought about reasons
3) Those who distanced themselves and focused on feelings
4) Those who distanced themselves and thought about reasons, the whys
Wilson writes, "As it happened, only one of these groups benefitted from the writing exercise: those who distanced themselves and thought about reasons. Only those participants were able to adopt a dispassionate approach whereby they reframed an event and found new meaning in it."
I LOVE his finding. It shows that the act of writing can heal trauma. By taking a step back from our story, we can find meaning behind the why, and new ground to move forward with our story. This is what happened for me when I was writing my book, Change Your Story, Change Your Life. In it, I explore the why to losing my job. I specifically looked at my interpretation of the disagreement that led to the end of my job and how it made me feel. Then, I stepped back and was able to separate how it made me feel and instead reconstructed it to see why it actually happened. In doing this, I was able to find peace. My book served as therapy in this process. So, Wilson's ideas resonate with me in a major way. Wilson writes, "The next time you think about an upsetting event from your past, remember to take a step back and analyze it from a distance, and to think dispassionately about why it occurred. In short, don't recount the event, take a step back and reconstruct and explain it."
I know that by understanding our why behind our stories, we can heal. So, for the writers that I work with, if you didn't get staffed this season, look at the why. Separate from how it made you feel so you can see the why more clearly. Reconstruct the why behind what happened. Then, take action to discover a new plan of action that will lead you toward you future success. By doing this, we can learn to tell our stories from a stronger place, a place from which we can move forward rather than dwelling in the past. In fiction, the why is the emotion that fuels the protagonist forward toward their goal. By better understanding our why behind the events that happen in our lives, we can redirect our story so that we find greater meaning and purpose. This growth will help us move through our "in between" times and toward our next success.