Narrative therapy is a technique that emphasizes and focuses on people's stories. The therapist finds the ways the client has "written" a dysfunctional narrative and helps the client find new ways to tell his or her story. Words are powerful and really do make a difference in how we understand our world and respond to it, even our memories of it.
Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, recently released A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, in which he explores his own story and its relevance. The book starts of quite slowly with no clear sense of direction. In the audiobook version, which I listened to, Miller narrates it himself, which is great. However, his almost apathetic tone makes it start even more slowly.
However, eventually the threads all tie together, with Miller not as much exploring how to re-tell his story, but how to engage in a story at all. He tells some beautiful and interesting tales along the way. I'm not sure how many are completely true and how many are embellished, but it doesn't really matter. His point comes across well that story is important. Without it, we wind up living meaningless lives.
John Eldredge often says the same thing, saying we do live in a story, but we have to wake up to it. Miller also quotes my psychology idol, Viktor Frankl, and his most famous (although not at all best) book, Man's Search for Meaning. Frankl's thesis for psychotherapy is that our primary drive is for meaning, and without it, we die.
Miller in some ways applies this idea and says that we make meaning through story. Without a meaningful story, we essentially live dead lives, just functioning according to the daily grind. Miller has some powerful imagery from his own life to elucidate this point.
I would generally agree that story elucidates our meaning. However, I would say that meaning comes through relationships. Ultimately, I believe our primary purpose is to love God and love others. We don't necessarily have to have a grand story to achieve that. Perhaps our meaning is to do so through the daily grind. But that transforms the grind into something transcendent.
It's not an either/or. But I think we have to remember the goal. The goal is not to have a story (and I don't think Miller would say that, either). The goal is to love God and others. We need a context and a motivation to do that. Finding our narrative can provide us just that, in turn giving us enough life and energy to love and be loved.
All-in-all, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is a good book. I liked it more than Blue Like Jazz. It made me rethink some of the ways I have told parts of my story (I may post on that at another time). The unique thing is you have to have patience with the book. This actually fits, as we need patience with our story. Patience makes the end product so much more meaningful.
Note: I received a complimentary copy of this audiobook in exchange for a review (with no obligation for a positive review).