REACHING ('retell your story')

A quick one. Hear me out.

People who offer shit like, 'retell your story' (as in to tell it differently), as advice for dealing with traumatic events is, if reduced to bare bones, like telling them to choose flight over fight.

[[[ANIMA KINGDOM REFERENCE: running away from the lion only keeps you safe for a while, controlling them with boundaries keeps us at a much safer from them and them, unfortunately, on the brink of extinction ]]

Unsolicited advice to 're-tell my story', always comes across as less of a coping strategy and more of a ploy that person is using to shhhhhhhhhhh, shush... shhhhhhhush me. Imagine there was a person in your life telling you to shut up on a constant. I guess, if you find a way to not see that person again, you could tell yourself convincingly that you were not the crazy one. However, if you couldn't find a way out, or worse still, a whole community of people everywhere you went told you to shut you up, then retelling the story becomes a lot more difficult. Retelling your story mantra style might be all you have the energy to do in a lifetime. Fuck that life.

In the uneven society we inhabit is there a parallel between wanting a victim to retell their story, and the retold stories people with more privilege gift themselves (about their merited position or innate goodness)? Perhaps the idea of re-telling stories is a neurosis owned by people better off, in whichever way, and repackaged as an aspirational obligation to those less so. Like owning expensive things.

As john Berger (bless his rested soul) was saying in Ways of Seeing, and I paraphrase; we adopt indulgent, pseudo fulfilling habits such as consumerism with one eye copying the bourgeois.

Popular examples of where privileged groups of people re-told their stories include; pirates who conquered other lands and renamed themselves royalty or religious types ordained to rule by divine order; newspaper columnists during the slave trade that retold stories of hardship into ones of how the 'workers' in the Caribbean were having a smashing great time; generations of men who have retold the truth about gender differences to convince us of men's' innately superior functioning brain and right to power; parents who spazzed out a bit too much on you with a wooden stick and can only look back with the conclusion the child (being the operative word) deserved it.

Perhaps the attraction to 'retell your story' comes from how well it seems to have worked for the above parties, on a surface level.

“If this is how the powerful think. Think like them and you will also become powerful”. What follows this eureka moment is normally a release of dopamine impossible to maintain for anything but the short term.

Also, when the truth is served to the self-appointed powerful, the child-like deep denial with which they respond makes it all too clear that 'retelling your story' comes with damaging design faults. Yet this is what self-help books, unhelpful friends and yawn factory family members advise you to do...

Am I reaching?

By Chima Nsoedo