Humans are narrative creatures. We shape our understanding of the world through stories we tell ourselves about us, about others, and about the world at large. Childhood memories in particular can be rich vehicles for helping us understand the metaphors we use to see our world. On any given day, the way we remember and tell a story about the past can tell us something about how we are thinking, feeling, and what values we hold right now. Recent memories can also help with this, but childhood stories have particular value for the simplicity of their underlying messages: the memory may be less accurate to the ‘facts’ of the event that occurred, but the truths we are trying to tell ourselves can be clearer.
One way to uncover a current truth about ourselves is by reflecting on a story about the past: tell the story in as much rich detail as possible, using vivid imagery to bring to life the sensations of the memory. Emotions are a powerful clue to our values. A coach or active reflection partner can help work through the memory with questions like
What meaning does this have for you?
What are the clearest aspects of this memory?
How do you see yourself in this story?
What is important about this today?
This can be a powerful way to uncover alternative ways of seeing ourselves, remembering the scope of our capabilities and resources, and uncovering internalized messages we may want to work on changing.