Is any story big enough for THIS?

Our media is pouring out rivers and oceans of horror, devastation, bravery and fear. We are deluged in a tsunami of tears, trauma and grief as we identify with the people of Ukraine. Can any story, any narrative possibly contain this level of suffering? Surely all our political, social, cultural and religious stories fall apart in the face of it all? How can our everyday, personal stories, played out in the mundanity of life not be eclipsed and overtaken by horror, powerlessness and fear?

I have come to believe that some stories can hold and articulate the pain. These are the narratives that reach beyond the self-made and consumeristic, beyond the isolated fantasy bubbles we can hide within. It was no accident that when he addressed the UK parliament, Zelensky, the Ukraine president, invoked the Churchillian narrative of fighting in the streets. This is a big story for the UK. It pulls on big themes of patriotism and history. But I think there is more. Times like this call for bigger stories.

The problem with our self-made narratives is that they depend on others to validate and support our view of ourselves and reality. They also create huge stress. If something goes wrong, whether in our relationships or more broadly, it falls to us to hold the story together. There is no ‘higher power’ to help us. This pressure on personal narrative fuels a lot of emotional breakdown, self-harm and addiction.

The ‘grand-narratives’ used to be provided by religion and mythic world views. Post modernity has done a good job of deconstructing these as redundant, coercive and oppressive. The stories of empire, control and power needed taking down. But what have we replaced them with? Our own individualised bespoke versions of reality?

All 12 step recovery programs refer to the essential need to ask for help from a ‘higher power’ outside our own frame of reference. We may not understand this power or how it operates but it helps us do what we could not do in our own strength. Mythic stories from spiritual texts (my own being the bible) don’t have to be rigid rule books, weaponised by those in power. I dare to hope that mythic stories and parables can help us engage with a higher power, another bandwidth that sustains us through the disasters day to day life brings. Far from being abstract and conceptual I think the best stories engage deeply with suffering and the specificity of our everyday lives. The tragic held in tension with the transcendent. Only these stories have the depth and range to hold and help navigate the sea of tears we find ourselves in now.

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Andre is a life coach and therapist. He uses creative approaches to unlock new stories and opportunities for his clients.

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Andre Radmall

Andre Radmall

Andre is a life coach and therapist. He uses creative approaches to unlock new stories and opportunities for his clients.

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