Creating Coherent Narratives

Gail Noppe-Brandon

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I think it is now widely believed by clinicians and meditation teachers alike that the creation of a coherent narrative allows us to be both mindful and related, to ourselves and to others. As a narratologist—one who studies human story—I love words, not just for their own sake, but because they’re the building blocks of human stories, human meaning, and human interactions; every word can carry or unlock a feeling. In this article, rather than simply sharing cases, I want to make a case for the power of narrative reconstruction as both a healing and a meaning-making tool. Because small and large traumas—ranging from loss of other to loss of self—create blocks and ruptures in narrative flow, I’ll share moments from several cases where narrative flow was achieved, and which were crucial movements toward healing. There are many roads to healing, but I hope to demonstrate how paying deep attention to the specific words our clients speak, at the same time paying deep attention to what they’re feeling and how they’re behaving as they share their stories, is a fruitful path toward the healthy reconstruction of their life narratives as well as their lived lives. This path entails a rhythmic tacking back and forth between the left brain, where we use words to make sense of the past, present, and anticipated future, and exploration of the felt feelings in the right brain. It is this tacking which allows for deep memory retrieval and reintegration. As Dan Siegel (2007) described it, “Narrative integration is more than just making up a story—it is a deep, bodily and emotional process of sorting through the muck in which we’ve been stuck” (pp. 308–309). My desire here is to share some ways to use your clients’ words, both spoken and written, to help sort the muck…

 

Gail Noppe-Brandon, LMSW, MPA, MA has over 25 years of experience in narratology. Gail served as Assistant Dean of Arts & Science at NYU and holds an MA in writing, an MPA in organizational development, and an LMSW in clinical social work. She is author of three books, several chapters and many articles on voicing and revising self-narratives, and is a featured Communication Coach on PBS. A documentary film about her work with inner city teens received the Chris Award at the Columbus International Film Festival in 2008. Noppe-Brandon is a master teacher who has received five Carnegie Awards for Excellence, as well as an award from the President’s Council on the Humanities. She has most recently given talks and trainings at: National Institute for the Psychotherapies (NIP), The Jewish Board of Family & Children’s Services (JBFCS), The Constructivist Psychology Network (CPN), and The Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Study Center (PPSC). She is currently in clinical practice at the Manhattan Greenberg Center and coaches individuals and groups privately.

You can read about her work or contact her through her website: www.gailnoppebrandon.com.

 


Memory Reconsolidation in Psychotherapy

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Memory reconsolidation (MR)—a foundational process with the potential, if properly understood, to consistently bring about the kind of transformational change that we look for in the lives of clients—is the subject of this book. Featured in this issue is Bruce Ecker, one of the foremost experts in applying techniques that fulfil the neurobiological requirements to achieve MR in clinical practice. In fact all of the authors in this issue are experts in their respective fields, demonstrating the unifying nature of MR in such diverse therapies as the Alexander technique, energy psychology, neuro-linguistic programming, and progressive counting. Understanding the biological basis of our memory and how it can be modified is the key to effective therapeutic change, especially when emotional memories are driving unwanted symptoms. The content of this special issue has been previously published in The Neuropsychotherapist or the International Journal of Neuropsychotherapy.