• Leila Ainge

Create a narrative of possibility


Have you seen the phrases 'collective trauma' and 'collective coping' used about the current pandemic? Our assumptions about trauma naturally lead us to think about post-traumatic stress, and disorder. Psychologists now think that post-traumatic stress leads to growth (PTG) and is actually a phase of rebuilding rather than one of disorder.

Interestingly, it is the use of narratives post trauma, that may hold the key to growth. When something traumatic happens it turns some of our basic assumption’s upside down. For example, humans are inherently social, we get a high through endorphins from social interactions, yet the pandemic changed our core assumptions over the safety of socialising, and we had to adapt to new rules and find new ways to get those interactional highs.

Research has shown those who experienced growth after trauma are able to express this through new narratives, and by that, we mean in the way the story of what happened is told, along with the possibilities for the future. Richard Tedeschi, one of the leading psychologists in this area describes this as the creation of an 'authentic narrative'.

How does this relate to business?

An authentic growth narrative acknowledges trauma and considers the possibilities that have emerged. It is uniquely different to being resilient. It’s not about bouncing back to where you were but moving forward to a new destination. The ability to construct new narratives with people who have lived the same experiences is an opportunity for collective growth, and one you can engage in with customers, clients, and colleagues if you make space for it.

The approach you take to creating new narratives begins with awareness of the stories you are currently telling. One technique I’ve used with clients over the last few months is to review emails/social media conversations to see how the challenges of the pandemic are being framed and talked about and adding in a possibility sentence.

Here is an example from an email exchange I had with a friend

Narrative ‘ Home-schooling has been really tough, I’m looking forward to the schools going back’

Narrative Possibility ‘Home-Schooling has been really tough, I’ve been reading up on coaching techniques for kids, I think this is something I’d like to explore more’

The point of this exercise is to think about the possibilities, creating space to be more reflective and aware of the narratives that you use. If you try this, and find it helpful do let me know.


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