Shonnie Brown, MFT
What is LifeStory Therapy and How is it Used?
LifeStory Therapy is autobiographical writing under the guidance of a professional therapist and writer. Increasingly, memoir writing is used
therapeutically for spiritual and emotional healing. For some, it is
easier to write than to talk. For others, it feels too shameful to
speak. Often it is scary to feel the pain of opening too much. My own
introduction to memoir writing developed spontaneously out of a need to
heal the overwhelming loss of my family's summer home--a loss so
profoundly deep that my grief only surfaced in dreams. Because I
recognized that my loss was deeply buried, I began writing the story of
our home, opening with a dream:
In the dream I am crying. Endless sobs, greater than any I've ever
known. My heart hurts beyond repair. I am watching the flames turn our
home to dark embers. Even though my mother has already sold the
property, the family is continuing to come up secretly to the burnt
cabin when the new owners aren't there. I'm afraid we're going to be
caught. And, sure enough, they drive up, catching us by surprise. I run
away, down the path, into the lake. I dive into the safe, familiar
waters and feel at peace.
Once I began writing about my summer home, I kept on writing. Perhaps I
was afraid that my wonderful childhood memories had burned up in the
fire as well. And then I continued with many other stories from my
childhood. I needed to write about the good memories and the painful
ones--to view them all from an adult perspective. During the time I was
writing about my school years, a big high school reunion loomed. And as
I began connecting with the friends of my childhood, I felt an
increasing need to explore in the memoirs feelings that were once again
brimming to the surface:
These dreams have continued for 15 years, and they've made me realize
that in my heart and mind no one else could ever "own" our beloved
lakeside property. Fate is requiring me to accept the unacceptable.
Fueled by a desire to identify everyone, I bring out the elementary class photos. I begin with the first grade picture. And I go into a reverie....
Treating my own shyness with compassionate acceptance truly helped me
to celebrate my reunion with the children I once feared. Writing my
memoirs has become a way of identifying and claiming myself. It was
important to know the fear as well as the love. And to find that so
often they were one and the same.
I'm peeking through the door at a group of playful first graders
running around the brand new classroom at Tamalpais Valley Elementary
School. I am terrified. Even my new green lunch box and plaid cotton
dress are not enough to still my fears of being unacceptable... I don't
fit with the others. Certainly no one will like me and I don't know
what to do here.
I like the structured activities of school... I love the feel and
especially the smell of my new blue Dick and Jane reader, my box of
crayons and four sticks of untouched colored modeling clay. I love
having a space for my own things that others can't mess up. I enjoy
reading aloud in the reading circle. I can do arithmetic problems on
the chalkboard. But recess, and the other kids... Now, that's really
scary to me.
What Happens in a LifeStory Therapy Group:
LifeStory Therapy groups are a safe container for people to focus on their written and verbal life stories. A place for others to bare
witness. And a place to do the therapeutic work which arises out of the
writing. In a LifeStory Therapy Group we will set individual writing goals, talk about our hindrances to writing, do exercises to break through writing blocks and share whatever we feel like sharing. As a guide, I will teach writing skills as well as facilitate personal therapeutic work.
Individual goals may be the following:
For further information about joining a LifeStory Therapy Group, please call me at (707) 526-4353 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- breaking through impediments to writing from one's authentic self
- accessing deep feelings and memories through writing
- developing interest in the exploration and meaning of life events
- accessing trauma and pain which has felt too hurtful or scary to
- developing compassionate acceptance for oneself in one's wholeness
©2005-2015 Shonnie Brown, Chinn Street Counseling Center; all rights reserved.