A question was recently posed by one of our students: We want the client to burst forth into the self. At the same time we want the client to burst forth into the context of his life. Since we are always busy finding the meaning of the moment, isn’t it possible that the person will be stuck only in that moment, and have no “story” to speak of that defines who he is? After all, throughout his life he has been stuck in a place that didn’t facilitate his emergence as a person. Being stuck without a story, he has no reason to burst into his self-hood!
My first thought was that the story of a person’s life is not in the lines, the cold facts about the work they did and the landmarks they passed. Not that those things are not important. But if you want to take a closer look at what this life is about you have to look in between the lines. You’ll find there the process of emergence into the self: the little victories of how you overcame this or stood up to that or saw something from a new perspective. In between the lines you will also find the pain, the suffering, the barriers, and what the person had to contend with. Even if the person has spent a lifetime failing to emerge, this too is a story. Finding how to emerge is the challenge that has been presented to this person and the challenge that can still be taken up.
Focusing on the process expands the meaning of the moment to see all of the strands that network out to past and future, to seeing where you’ve been with this issue and where you want to go with it. It means going more deeply into the texture of the moment to see what is there. What is the quality of this person’s resolve about something he wants to do tomorrow? Does he actually believe himself?
My co-facilitator Teria added: You’re taken up by the process into a place beyond where you are right now and beyond your “self.” Your history and your story is not something you make up or something you re-frame but something given to you. How do you cooperate with the storyteller? Can you meet that point of doubting self-perception and see that as part of the growth process?
I continued to think about this and I thought of how people like to frame their lives as a story. They talk about a “narrative.” It seems to me that in logotherapy instead of conceiving life as a story, life is a mission. One could possibly say there is no contradiction there and that the mission is part of the story but I sense there is a different orientation here towards life. As Teria said there is a storyteller and that storyteller is not you.
How does the meaning of the moment relate to the context of past history and also future? Past and future are encompassed in the moment. We are often ignorant of this richness of the moment. We are probably not fully aware of how the past has influenced the present or the present will influence the future. Yet, there can be a task for you to do at this moment even if you don’t see how it connects to all the other moments.
Furthermore your obligation at this moment can come from something that happened in the past or from something you envision in the future. For example if someone fails to see the need to apologize for having hurt someone in the past because it’s “time to more on” his present moment is not a meaningful one. The past cannot be detached. It is ever present. But the past can be rewritten by the value of regret and by the stance taken towards it now.
The story is told between the lines. The values connect the dots, make sense out of the story and put everything into context.