Nick Wood – July/August 2006

I mentioned a few blogs ago that Internova may be publishing an overview of SF in SA by Gail Brunette – unfortunately they have not been able to publish another hard-copy issue and are looking at moving online – see I will look to hopefully update my own column on SF in South Africa (part 3) in the next week or so.

I have increasingly been realising the importance of stories…a workshop I recently attended was looking into developing a research tool for psychotherapy. The workshop was headed by Prof. Bren Grinyer of the University of Woolongong in Australia and involved using the Core Conflictual Relationship Method (CCRT) to distill central themes that emerge from psychotherapy encounters. These main themes end up forming part of a narrative(s) constructed in therapy. Prof. Grenyer suggested that people who seek out therapy may have a limited number of narratives concerning their life – and these often end up being repetitive, with maladaptive or problematically set up endings,
e.g. 'I always end up in bad relationships.'

So the art of therapy becomes a process of helping people develop new stories and new possibilities for their lives – akin to narrative therapy, but couched in different terms, depending on the therapeutic model used. This made me think of a BBC documentary I'd seen several years ago, trying to unpick where the sense of self resides in the brain.

The programme ended up highlighting the difficulty of pinpointing self in the brain, essentially seeming to state that the brain processes a story to hang the clothes of the self on – i.e. our sense of self emerges from the narrative(s) our brains construct about our lives, in order to make sense of it. Thus, with developing language our words become available to assist self-reflection and engendering stories about ourselves that situate and make meaning of our body and its relationship to the world. This may not always result in sharply individually based identities – cultures around the world vary in terms of how much emphasis they put on self versus group identities.

So we're all story tellers, then, and our stories change and develop over time. In addition, it seems that the richer and more diverse our stories, the happier and healthier we can potentially become, with a greater set of resources and possible solutions to the challenges ahead.

I don't feel so guilty then, calling myself a writer, despite a limited number of hard-copy publications – we are all writers – whether on paper, or in our heads. And, the more stories we have, the better…So here's to your writings too – may they help carry you with joy and good connections through your life ahead.

"…we have never lived enough. Our experience is, without fiction, too confined and too parochial. Literature extends it, making us reflect and feel about what might otherwise be too distant for feeling…"

From Martha Nussbaum in The Moral Of The Story : An Introduction To Ethics / Nina Rosenstand. 5th ed.(2005)

With Thanks to Mandy (my sister) for finding this quote – she is a wonderful and big character in my own life story.

Nick Wood – July/August 2006