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Being a Main Character: Storytelling in Therapy

Anyone who gets to talking to me for longer than five minutes knows that I am a voracious reader. Fantasy epics full of ancient prophecies, magic, dragons, and faeries have been my favorite since I was very young. Fantasy as a genre has stood the test of time, from classic favorites written by Tolkien to newer epics by Sarah J. Maas. The universes these authors have built are captivating and spellbinding, and it is easy to immerse ourselves in a world seemingly so different from our own. I think that, because of this, we humans sometimes forget that we ourselves are nothing but characters in our own stories.

Serena Kerrigan, a Duke University alumna turned viral social media content creator, is coined as the first to popularize the phrase “do it for the plot”. This concept encourages people to do things outside their comfort zone as a way of making their own life, their own story, more exciting. “Romanticizing life”, a similar concept, pushes people to find joy and beauty in the little things, such as a flower growing near a sidewalk or a cup of tea placed perfectly on its saucer.

These ideas are already present in many Acceptance and Commitment Therapy-based (ACT) interventions. For example: the DNA-V model. This model is described as a marriage of ACT and positive psychology that outlines three behaviors (Discoverer, Noticer, and Advisor) used to ideally live a life underpinned by our Values. 

The Discoverer is the part of us that tries new things. That seeks out new experiences, goes on adventures, tries out something unfamiliar for the sake of curiosity itself. Sounds a bit familiar to doing it for the plot, hm?

The Noticer is the part of us that pays attention to what is happening to and around us, both internally and externally. The combination of all our sensory experiences happening in real time as we try to process the world around us. It’s impossible to romanticize life without using our Noticer.

Character development is essential to any good story. Stories become incredibly boring if characters are the exact same at the end of the book as they are at the beginning. Change should happen as we move through life. Conflict, pain, and hardship is a non-optional part of this development—in stories, and in reality. But viewing it as a chapter of your life and trying out the above perspectives might allow you to have appreciation for the journey. A quote about fairy tales in the television show Ted Lasso sums it up perfectly:

“Fairy tales do not start, nor do they end, at the dark forest. That’s only something that shows up smack dab in the middle of the story, but it will all work out. It may not work out how you think it will or how you hope it does. But believe me, it will all work out, exactly as it’s supposed to.”

So, I pose a question to you.

What do you want the next chapter of your life to look like?

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