RE-MEMBERING CONVERSATIONS AND THE “SAYING HULLO AGAIN” METAPHOR
For those not familiar with the idea of “re-membering conversations,” it is a Narrative practice associated with the notion that a person’s identity is shaped by their experiences with other people and their contexts. In summary, re-membering practices aim to acknowledge “members” in a person’s life–from their past, present, and desired future. In therapy, a re-membering conversation would make it possible for the person consulting a therapist to explore all the memberships in their lives–those from the past that have shaped their story and identity conclusions and those in their present that encourage the performance of such identities. Through a process of exploration and revision of these memberships of life, the person is able to make informed decisions that will influence their preferred future realities.
Maybe it is because I have too many members in my club of life, but re-membering conversations have always been a Narrative practice that I have found challenging to fully and openly engage with. Not that I don’t connect with the idea or practice, I think it is the complete opposite, I might connect emotionally with it so much that it causes discomfort. When I was younger, I left many people behind as I chose a different path in my life. Over the years, I have failed to reconnect with these people. As a consequence, I would say I kind of abandoned some aspects of my story when I moved away. But I also know that some of the members of my club of life are the keepers of those stories and perhaps I am just not ready to accept those stories back into my life, but I want to one day. Despite this, I am willing to allow myself to experience discomfort and continue welcoming re-membering conversations and practices into my life and into my work because of the potential for growth that exists within these practices.
When I first learned about re-membering as a practice of Narrative Therapy, I thought what I believe most therapists typically think, that it is just about reconnecting with past experiences, journeys, and people in your life. Instead, re-membering conversations are more about the relationships one establishes throughout one’s life and the contributions these relationships have made and continue to make to one’s always developing identity. This makes the process of re-membering quite intricate actually, but it also makes it more important and valuable. In my practice, I have learned that persons truly begin to believe important aspects of their identities that may have been neglected or overlooked as a result of a problem-saturated narrative when they can see themselves through the eyes of another. For some reason, it makes a differenceーit presents evidence of different identity conclusions that persons oftentimes are able to quickly connect with. And this is why I love this process, but at the same, I wonder if that is what makes it it anxiety-provoking.
I started seeing someone who lost a child to suicide. We have been working together for almost a year now. The “Saying Hullo Again” metaphor has been invaluable in our work together. Engaging in a re-membering conversation about their loved one was not easy at first, but with time, I learned that these conversations were allowing my client to experience their loss in a way that fit with how they wanted to grief. Through these conversations, I got to know my client’s loved one–my client’s words and the stories he shared about their relationship were influential in this. The “Saying Hullo Again” metaphor taught me that my client’s loved one was a talented and kind young person, and I wished I had gotten to know him. These conversations made it possible for us to acknowledge all the contributions that my client’s loved one continues to make in the lives of those who knew him. By allowing these new knowledges to be present in our therapeutic conversations, I helped my client to freely appreciate the life of their loved one and to honor the contributions they made to their life, the life of others, and their community. The truth of the matter is that these conversations often invite the dead to be present in the room, and this experience is life changing for the therapist and those consulting the therapist. My client has found comfort in not having to let go; and instead, now they are looking at ways to integrate their loved one, the new knowledges about them, and the pain of never again being able to see or touch them into new and exciting (yet unknown) journeys in their future.
I truly believe none of this would have been possible without the experience of a re-membering conversation through the “Saying Hullo Again” metaphor. I believe that re-membering conversations of this kind can be a window into persons’ most valued hopes and dreams for themselves and their future. I find these conversations to be life changing. Because of that, I think that these conversations deserve to be engaged in carefully and respectfully. I also believe that one must feel ready to experience a life change and oftentimes we are not there just yet. When I think about this, I wonder how my own journey will change and develop in the future as I continue moving towards a re-membering conversation of my own.