Seeking the Self: Through Other People’s Stories

by Aaron Balick

Psychotherapy is built upon people’s stories. It’s through our stories that we understand ourselves and through sharing them with others that we may be able to achieve a different perspective on them. Sometimes our stories about ourselves get stuck – and our attachment to our stories prevent us from moving on. Other times we can get a new perspective on our old stories, and by changing the frame the story can unfold in a different way. Sometimes just listening to someone else’s story can have the power to change perspective on our own.

I have spent my professional life being moved by other people’s stories. In the clinical situation it has been my job to work with these stories of people’s lives in ways that enable them to gain a deeper perspective on them, thereby giving them the capacity to make better choices today. Given the confidential nature of psychotherapy, these powerful stories remain between us only. This confidentiality is crucial for these stories to be told safely. The consequence, however, is that our most private and vulnerable-making stories remain secreted from the world. Each person sits on their private story thinking they are the only one with such a tale: in fact they are one of the millions of variations fundamentally based on universal human themes.

It has been Stillpoint’s vision from the beginning to explore psychology, in depth, inside and outside the consulting room. That’s why Stillpoint Spaces London and Seeking the Self Podcast are such a good match. Seeking the Self shares this vision by exploring people’s intimate stories in a respectful and engaging way through a podcast. By doing this we hope the stories we share can affect our listeners’ stories about themselves – enabling deep personal reflection and personal growth.

The podcast is produced by award winning radio documentary maker Hana Walker Brown who knits the interviews and commentary together within engagingly intimate soundscapes. Our episodes are focussed on the stories of our interviewees but the themes we find there are discussed by co-presenter, author and speaker Nathalie Nahai and myself. I met Nathalie years ago at Social Media Week where we bonded about our mutual passion for applying psychological ideas to the contemporary world.

Hana, Nathalie, and I have recently released our pilot episode of Seeking the Self which you can listen to here. In Believer, Atheist, Priest we focus on one interviewee who happens to be an old friend of mine from high school. Originally included as part of a trio of stories, we decided to focus our entire first episode on her because her story includes so much on our theme of how one loses and finds the self.

In this pilot episode we learn how Erika lost her mother and religion all at once. As a family of devout Christian Scientists, they did not seek conventional medical treatment for Erika’s mother’s treatable cancer, and hence they lost her and their faith at the same time. How did Erika find her way from such pain and loss to experience grace?

Throughout our series we will be discussing how people lose or find themselves in a variety of ways: through sex, drugs, ideology, other people, and more. In this episode we find how one woman both lost and found herself in religion. The interview is even more poignant as the interviewer, an atheist, comes to understand how his interviewee, a believer, came to find herself through religion. We know that her story will appeal to both believers and non-believers alike.

~Dr. Aaron Balick

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