We each have stories about our lives, the world, and our place in it. Our stories come from a variety of sources, such as our cultural background, religious upbringing, the educational system, and our families of origin. Our stories comprise the foundation for our beliefs, values, attitudes, and life choices. Good stories can be incredibly powerful and inspiring. Bad stories can be disempowering and disheartening.
It is important that our stories tell the full truth about our experiences. If they don’t, we might find ourselves trying to convince ourselves of a lie. As author Daniel Taylor put it in his book Tell Me a Story, “Inadequate stories require constant stretching, patching, deflecting, and suppression.”
Taylor tells the story of Procrustes, a character from Greek mythology. Procrustes would invite travelers who passed by his home to sleep on his bed. However, he insisted that his guests fit the bed perfectly. If a guest was too short, he was stretched in order to fit. If a guest was too tall, his excess length was amputated. How many of us live by ‘Procrustean stories’ that force us to stretch or chop our own experiences to fit the story?
I had this experience with the Christian story, which is a powerful organizing story of my life. I struggled to fit some of what I was taught growing up with my new experiences as a researcher and counselor. I didn’t abandon the Christian story, but I did shift or change some of my faith story to be congruent with my experience of the world.
Discussion: How do your stories fit with your experiences? Do your experiences closely fit the foundational stories of your life? Do you feel a sense of congruence between your stories and your experience of the world? What do you do when your experiences can’t seem to fit with the stories of your life? Do you try to stretch or chop your experiences to make them fit? When you stretch and chop your experiences, do you feel as if you lose something? How do you decide when it is okay to change or shift one of your stories?