Connecting Space

Connecting Space

Narrative Matters

Thought for May 2019

The use of Narrative


A personal narrative encompasses all of the thoughts, feelings, experiences, and behaviors that shape our lives. Our habits, the events we’ve been through, and the things we believe become the backbone of our personal stories about who we are. Narrative therapy is based on the idea that people can improve their self-image and empower themselves to take action in their own lives by re-evaluating their personal narratives.

In  noticing that a client has a story that contributes to a negative self-image or poor self-esteem,it is important to challenge that story. Look for gaps in the narrative or events that contradict the client’s current beliefs. Work with the client to create an alternate storyline that emphasizes their positive traits and problem-solving skills.Re-authoring is a powerful tool because it doesn’t involve making up a story out of thin air. Rather, it involves constructing a new, more positive narrative from a client’s own experiences and memories.

Permission has been given to share the following as an example.

As part of our work together the client was asked to consider her narrative and write her own ending rather than the assumed.

Harry Potter and the Sharpened Blade


When I was little, I was given a But. This But was cast by the Stupefy charm. It was meant to keep me safe, to keep me right, so that I wouldn’t fall off the path into the inky realms of the dangerous and unknown.

To be stupefied is to live apart, to be dislocated, even from oneself. An imposter in your own life. The But is immovable. I couldn’t go over it, I couldn’t go under it, I couldn’t go around it. The But told me I was not enough to go through it. I would have to be incredibly good and pretty and courageous and strong and intelligent to do that and I was none of these things. But I knew I was loved and safe and so I stayed behind the But. After But told me these things I put my fingers in my ears and hummed a little tune to stop any more truths getting in. My inside was bruised and sore. Even my Glow. I have this Glow you see. It’s tiny and ever so gentle. It softly shimmers and although I don’t quite know what it is, I am compelled to keep it secure.

I grew to be grown and But came with me wherever I went. I grew to know But. But was familiar. But was always on hand to confirm what I suspected about me, a fakery travelling the cavernous, hammering outside world.

I learned magic. It never occurred to me that I could be magical, but I tried it and it worked. And here is the magic that I can manifest – If I love and take care of – unconditionally, without manipulation or expectation the But gets smaller, so I can hardly hear its constant mewling. Those I loved would tell me I was ok, and it made the Glow smile and stretch out towards me and I would stroke it and ever so gently brush away those dew-drop tears of relief. I wanted people to know Glow and how precious it was; how perfect and right.

But my magic was secretly a curse. But laughed, knowing that this would be the case, it would always be the case because of me. But knew you see, that people only saw the But and how it could help them. Glow confused them because Glow stretched out to them and asked of them. Glow hadn’t ever seen herself fully and needed a mirror to reflect back at her.

And then the magic worked. Those two shiny bright days of perfection. I made little Glows. They were full of Glow. Different, individual Glows. And their Glows and my Glow recognised each-other and they all loved each other wholly, without reservation or judgement. And I was enough and ok and beautiful and strong and courageous and bright in the reflection of their Glow, as they were in mine. I was loved. They were loved. In this I was brilliant.

My Glow grew, But But said there was not enough room, Glow would never be enough. But had kept me safe all this time and if Glow grew anymore how could it keep it so?

But started to bully Glow. But was a churning, sniping maelstrom of discontent about how I’d got everything wrong. I put my fingers in my ears and hummed a tune of addiction to drown it out.

And then one day after all the days of grief Glow and I realised there was a question we needed to ask. And there was an answer to be found. We just needed to go hand in hand and ask one of wisdom. Close eyes, take a breath, lean into it and life will show the way. I don’t know how we knew this, but we did. But had to come too of course, so I had to be brave and take my fingers out of my ears just long enough to find them.

That’s how come we met Professor Dumbledore. Gentle, kind and wise Dumbledore. She recognised us straight away and she didn’t mind and wasn’t appalled. We asked our question and she asked one of her own in return.


We spent some hours together in this state of questioning. I didn’t know where this would lead at first and now, I do.

But, Glow and Me are not separate, rather we are facets of the whole. None of them is an imposter, none of them is bad and none of them is hopeless. Together they make I.

In a moment of perfect clarity, they coalesce iridescently into a rightness.

I have a deep sense of compassion for But and I understand it a lot better today than I did yesterday.

I have work to do and it is time for change. I am aware of But tut-tutting at this concept. But is unwilling and is sulky and wilful.

But is a brick. But is a boulder. But is a mountain I must climb to be free. But needs to be understood.

I heave a knowing sigh. I have one more perilous, vertiginous place to traverse to find the key that will give me the answer I am so desperate to find. And I know there is the gnawing doubt that it will be my undoing.

I look down at my feet. Around each ankle several ropes are tied. At the end of each rope is tied a brick. They’ve always been there. I just haven’t recognised them before. Each one is heavy on its own, but together they make movement almost impossible.

I have the tool to rid myself of the burden, but its blade is blunt. I know to sharpen it will require work and discomfort. But tells me it’s futile. But says bricks are balloons and I will fall without them.


I figured out how to sharpen the blade.

I tuck Glow safe inside me. My glow knows why; this is a job for the I of us. Glow is safe and happy, But is safe and the act of sharpening has given But contentment. But is quiet.

I raise the knife. There is no moment of sunlight glinting from its blade. It’s pissing down, the clouds are ominously grey, and the wind chews everything as a dog chews the marrow of a bone. No matter. This is not a Marvel adventure, it’s a marvellous adventure.

I pick the two most weighty of bricks, the bricks labelled addiction and I slice the ropes that bound them to me as if they were nothing more than gossamer threads.

And in that undoing the strangest and most magical thing happens.

There is a palpable and simultaneous coming together and falling apart. There is no struggle, no clash, no Titan uprising. There is just an acceptance and a sense of pride and joy. What is not needed just dissipates in the air. Where once was a gargantuan wall can now be swept away as if a cobweb. Where once was a mountain to climb, I find I was just in cloud and the summit is steps away.

And this has a ripple effect through everything, both worldly and perceptive. I am wholly enough.


Author: Jill • Filed under: Featured, Narrative Matters • Posted: May 21, 2019 2:05 pm

Thought for Sep 2018

The Four Basic Styles of Communication

1. PASSIVE COMMUNICATION is a style in which individuals have developed a pattern of avoiding expressing their opinions or feelings, protecting their rights, and identifying and meeting their needs. As a result, passive individuals do not respond overtly to hurtful or anger-inducing situations. Instead, they allow grievances and annoyances to mount, usually unaware of the buildup. But once they have reached their high tolerance threshold for unacceptable behavior, they are prone to explosive outbursts, which are usually out of proportion to the triggering incident. After the outburst, however, they may feel shame, guilt, and confusion, so they return to being passive.

Passive communicators will often:
 fail to assert for themselves
 allow others to deliberately or inadvertently infringe on their rights  fail to express their feelings, needs, or opinions
 tend to speak softly or apologetically
 exhibit poor eye contact and slumped body posture

The impact of a pattern of passive communication is that these individuals:
 often feel anxious because life seems out of their control
 often feel depressed because they feel stuck and hopeless
 often feel resentful (but are unaware of it) because their needs are not being met  often feel confused because they ignore their own feelings

 are unable to mature because real issues are never addressed

A passive communicator will say, believe, or behave like:  “I’m unable to stand up for my rights.”
 “I don’t know what my rights are.”
 “I get stepped on by everyone.”

 “I’m weak and unable to take care of myself.”  “People never consider my feelings.”

2. AGGRESSIVE COMMUNICATION is a style in which individuals express their feelings and opinions and advocate for their needs in a way that violates the rights of others. Thus, aggressive communicators are verbally and/or physically abusive.

Aggressive communicators will often:  try to dominate others
 use humiliation to control others  criticize, blame, or attack others  be very impulsive

 have low frustration tolerance
 speak in a loud, demanding, and overbearing voice  act threateningly and rudely
 not listen well
 interrupt frequently
 use “you” statements

This resource is provided by the UK Violence Intervention and Prevention Center

 have an overbearing or intimidating posture
The impact of a pattern of aggressive communication is that these individuals:
 become alienated from others
 alienate others
 generate fear and hatred in others
 always blame others instead of owning their issues, and thus are unable to mature

The aggressive communicator will say, believe, or behave like:  “I’m superior and right and you’re inferior and wrong.”
 “I’m loud, bossy and pushy.”
 “I can dominate and intimidate you.”

 “I can violate your rights.”
 “I’ll get my way no matter what.”  “You’re not worth anything.”
 “It’s all your fault.”
 “I react instantly.”
 “I’m entitled.”
 “You owe me.”
 “I own you.”

3. PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE COMMUNICATION is a style in which individuals appear passive on the surface but are really acting out anger in a subtle, indirect, or behind-the-scenes way. People who develop a pattern of passive-aggressive communication usually feel powerless, stuck, and resentful – in other words, they feel incapable of dealing directly with the object of their resentments. Instead, they express their anger by subtly undermining the object (real or imagined) of their resentments.

Passive-Aggressive communicators will often:
 mutter to themselves rather than confront the person or issue
 have difficulty acknowledging their anger
 use facial expressions that don’t match how they feel – i.e., smiling when angry  use sarcasm
 deny there is a problem
 appear cooperative while purposely doing things to annoy and disrupt
 use subtle sabotage to get even

The impact of a pattern of passive-aggressive communication is that these individuals:  become alienated from those around them
 remain stuck in a position of powerlessness (like POWs)
 discharge resentment while real issues are never addressed so they can’t mature

The passive-aggressive communicator will say, believe, or behave like:
 “I’m weak and resentful, so I sabotage, frustrate, and disrupt.”
 “I’m powerless to deal with you head on so I must use guerilla warfare.”  “I will appear cooperative but I’m not.”

This resource is provided by the UK Violence Intervention and Prevention Center

4. ASSERTIVE COMMUNICATION is a style in which individuals clearly state their opinions and feelings, and firmly advocate for their rights and needs without violating the rights of others. These individuals value themselves, their time, and their emotional, spiritual, and physical needs and are strong advocates for themselves while being very respectful of the rights of others.

Assertive communicators will:
 state needs and wants clearly, appropriately, and respectfully  express feelings clearly, appropriately, and respectfully
 use “I” statements
 communicate respect for others
 listen well without interrupting
 feel in control of self
 have good eye contact
 speak in a calm and clear tone of voice
 have a relaxed body posture
 feel connected to others
 feel competent and in control
 not allow others to abuse or manipulate them
 stand up for their rights

The impact of a pattern of assertive communication is that these individuals:
 feel connected to others
 feel in control of their lives
 are able to mature because they address issues and problems as they arise  create a respectful environment for others to grow and mature

The assertive communicator will say, believe, or behave in a way that says:
 “We are equally entitled to express ourselves respectfully to one another.”  “I am confident about who I am.”
 “I realize I have choices in my life and I consider my options.”
 “I speak clearly, honestly, and to the point.”
 “I can’t control others but I can control myself.”
 “I place a high priority on having my rights respected.”
 “I am responsible for getting my needs met in a respectful manner.”
 “I respect the rights of others.”
 “Nobody owes me anything unless they’ve agreed to give it to me.”
 “I’m 100% responsible for my own happiness.”

Assertiveness allows us to take care of ourselves, and is fundamental for good mental health and healthy relationships.



Author: Jill • Filed under: Featured, Narrative Matters • Posted: September 2, 2018 6:59 pm

About Strokes: Warm Fuzzies and Cold Pricklies

What is a Stroke?

A stroke is an act by someone else that lets you know they are there.

Dr. Calude Steiner , in a book called  ” A Warm Fuzzy Tale” names pleeasant strokes ” Warm Fuzzies” because you feel warm and fuzzy all over when you get one.  He calls unpleasent strokes ” cold pricklies”

An example of a warm fuzzy :



a compliment

a warm and friendly look

a smile

What we say and the way we look at each other as well as the way we touch each other can all be pleasant strokes(Warm Fuzzies)

The very best strokes (Warm Fuzzies)are the ones you don’t have to earn – the strokes you get from people important to you  just for being . These are free strokes .  These strokes are not only for being good, smart or winning  but just for being you .

Strokes are vital to your physical and mental health and you need them every day to be healthy and happy

Author: Jill • Filed under: Featured, Narrative Matters • Posted: May 13, 2017 6:52 pm


Passive Behaviours

The Schiffs identified four behaviours that were particularly passive.

Passive behaviour 1 – Doing Nothing

You can’t get much more passive than doing nothing eh?! Well as the Schiff’s see it there are two ways in which you can do nothing. The first way is to have a problem and then to passively not respond to that problem. Imagine a rabbit in the headlights sort of scenario. Quite often when people are in this place they say “I can’t think” or “I’m confused” – a survival response clicks in.
If you are doing nothing in this way it is likely that you will feel uncomfortable and anyone who attempts to help you with this is likely to get dragged in and end up doing nothing too.

The second way of doing nothing is not passive behavior. You can decide to do nothing. This is from an Adult place and there is an active decision to do nothing. In this scenario you will probably not feel uncomfortable because you have taken action. The action you have taken is to decide to do nothing!

Passive behaviour 2 – Over Adaptation

Over adaptation is when you do not work out what your goal is when attempting to solve a problem but instead you try to achieve what you believe is somebody else’s goal.

Here is an example. Frankie and Benny are deciding what to see at the cinema.

Problem: Which film to go and see.

Frankie’s response: “I’m not at all bothered – I guess you would like to see the Cowboy film so let’s go see that”

Benny’s response: “Yep – I would like to see that film so if you are happy let’s do that.”

Only Frankie hates cowboy films and spends the next hour and a half feeling very annoyed that he has to sit through one.

Frankie’s over adaptation was very hard to detect because he made no indication of what he wanted to do. As a result he had to suffer a film he knew he would dislike. If he had been more active in the decision about what film they both saw and discussed it he would have found out that Benny also loves Science Fiction and would have been happy to see the new Star wars movie that Frankie really wanted to see.

Passive behaviour 3 – Agitation

When we feel agitated we do things that are pointless and have nothing to do with the goal we are trying to achieve. We usually feel uncomfortable and confused.

We behave this way because we are defending the symbiosis we have formed with another against a threat . We know we could solve our problem by taking action but we just don’t feel adequate enough to grab the bull by the horns and do it.

What’s also can be present is the belief that what we are doing is actually achieving something.

The agitated person needs another individual to step in and give clear instructions as to what to do. This restores them to a overadapted place which is far less serious. The difficulty with agitation is that if it is not dealt with it can esculate into the next stage of passive behaviour: violence.

Passive behaviour 4 – Violence or Incapacitation

When I read this stage I couldn’t get my head round how violence was passive behaviour – surely it’s the ultimate in doing something right? Wrong, when we become violent we actually change nothing. It is the release of energy built up from passivity.

Violence does not require thinking and no responsibility is taken for it. Just think of the way people describe their violence after the event;

“He made me so mad I couldn’t help myself hitting him”
“I punched the wall because I was so frustrated”

Quite often after the violence, once all of the energy has been released and they have calmed down, the person is quite able to have a rational conversation about what happened.

Violence is a grandiose act and really buys into the idea that “I can’t stand it any more” – a great example of a passive statement.

How can knowing all of this help me?

I think the first benefit of knowing this information is being able to identify passive behavior in yourself. If you can identify that you are acting passively then you can decide (make an active decision) whether you want to continue doing this or act differently.

In order to do this you may find it useful to track your feelings about a situation. Your feelings hold the key to what is going on. It may go something like this:

I feel ill at ease about something that is going on in my life.

I sit for a minute or two and just track my feelings. What am I feeling? Where am I feeling it (in my body)? Is this a common feeling that reminds me of something from my past?

If the feeling is agitation then does this have something to do with inaction? Am I feeling very angry? Do I feel like I want to hit something (or someone)? Do I feel like I’m completely stuck and can do nothing?

If the angry feelings are there then the first step is to do something to expend that energy somewhere else and prevent an explosion. You might do this by going for a walk, taking yourself to the cinema, listening to calming music or whatever else you know will calm you down. The same can be said about agitation, which is you being on the verge of violence or incapacitation.

Once you have done this and your brain is more able to think logically about your situation. See if you can identify one single thing that you can do that will help your situation. This will move you away from passivity to action and may help shift the block that you feel. If you can’t even do this then it may be that you need help and advice from someone trained in this area. A therapist or counsellor should be able to help you look at your passive behaviours and facilitate decision making.

Recognise any of the passive behaviours mentioned?

How has this post impacted on you?  Do you see which passive behaviours you mostly carry out?  Have you got some great ideas for moving yourself out of passivity?  Please leave your comments about passive behaviours below.


Author: Jill • Filed under: Featured, Narrative Matters • Posted: January 3, 2017 10:45 am

Are you discounting?

What is passivity?

Passivity is when we put something off or don’t do it at all.



The Schiffs (1971) defined discounting as:

“the person who discounts believes, or acts as though he believes, that his feelings about what someone else has said, done or felt are more significant that what that person actually said, did or felt. He does not use information relevant to the situation.”



Grandiosity is the act of purposefully exaggerating about self or others or the environment in order to maintain the passivity. When we use grandiosity we take no responsibility for the decisions involved in a situation and we make the situation responsible for the behavior.


Why do we behave in this manner?

So why do we use discounting and grandiosity? The Schiffs say that we use discounting and grandiosity to remain in the passive symbiotic relationship with the other and not threaten the dependency contract.

Why is symbiosis bad?

The simple answer is that it is not always bad and can be an effective way for two people to function at times. The danger lies when we begin to discount our ability to change things that we don’t like and that are holding us back.


Suggestions for reducing your passivity

  • Notice what’s going on – your clues are discounting and grandiosity. Are you using words like “always”, “never” “I/you can’t bear it” “I can’t cope”.
  • Put things in perspective – you may feel nervous about doing things differently but what is really the worst that could happen? Are you being grandiose about the consequences of change?
  • Look at your history – Are you used to thinking that you can’t do things or can’t change? You may have learnt this as a child and are carrying it into your adulthood. As a child it is tricky to change things because you do not have much power. The power lies with your parents. As an adult you have power. You can change your life and you are not reliant on anyone else to stay alive.
  • Appreciate other adults will be OK – The adults in your life are just that, adults. Sometimes we have to make decisions that impact on others and that they won’t like but this choice is available to all adults and adults are self sufficient and can look after themselves.



Author: Jill • Filed under: Narrative Matters • Posted: November 15, 2016 12:34 pm

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