Counselling Conversations
...turning things around

Email us or call
0131 225 4596

Growing up I had occasion to listen to my grandmother and aunts from my extended family  discussing family history. In their heads they carried a family tree which went back at least three generations.

Unfolded over tea, they worked out how they were related as distant cousins. In the process, stories were told, ancestors claimed, patterns established, values embedded; I wish I had taped them.

When their voices fell silent, when the tide washed out, what remained were indistinct patterns of trace elements in the sand; fragments of memory left behind by the people whose stories had bound them together. I bind them together at times within my own personal stories and history as part of the narrative knowledge within which I move.

I realise now that the stories told were the approved stories. There were other stories, not told, hidden in plain sight, forbidden stories carrying with them the threat of exclusion and expulsion. These stories are the ones that remain visible, only as gaps in the memory, untold, unheard. As silent family stories, they were perhaps told to others, perhaps told by the people concerned only to themselves, and even then only as a vague whispering of what had been lost in conformity, in a search for family approval and respectability.

That search took place within family stories dominated, as in other families, by the twin themes of good versus bad, belonging versus exclusion. The good belonged, the bad were excluded. Forbidden was anything that challenged the prevailing construction of the good. Many lives were blighted by this. Part of therapy is the uncovering of family stories and their themes that reach back through the generations, that seemingly determine the available choices of where we are now.

The choices of family stories need not determine our fate. As we live, other choices become available, ones that allow for human flourishing and growth. To flourish and grow it is sometimes necessary to understand the family stories, to question them, to question our own stories to date. To realise that whatever choices we were offered, whatever choices we have made, there is always now the opportunity for something different. To realise that if we allow ourselves to stop and look in the right way for what we may have missed, on the way to where we are now, we can find what can carry us forward, in a new direction and into a once unseen future, into a new and more liveable story.

Conversations for IndividualsConversations for Couples