Cuqui Toledo, México
After Emily Sued (my sister-friend) died and the next year Michael, I was very sad because I was concerned that narrative practice might also die in México. But now I think differently; it is really growing. Marta Campillo wrote in Spanish a book to learn narrative therapy. Last October, we attended a psychology congress in Chihuahua, and David Epston and Maggie Carey’s lectures were packed; young people were very surprised and interested. Antonella Amicone is working with a large group of government employees in Cuernavaca. Alfonso Diaz has started a one year training in narrative therapy and his community work in Oaxaca is also growing. Some Mexican universities are starting to offer masters in narrative therapy and narrative practice. We are teaching narrative practice in a one year program, to 50 social workers and psychologists, as part of Therapia Narrativa Coyoacán’s group activities, and it is really joyful to see how these women are blooming with narrative ideas.
Since the beginning, our study group has had the purpose to keep studying Michael´s narrative ideas. After we finished with Emily in the Narrative Program #2, she said: ‘There is not a #3 program, so now it is your responsibility to develop narrative practice in México’. When she died, the group promised to take care of this invaluable work. Sometimes, people think narrative is another ‘technique’ that you can use in a very ‘light’ way, but that is not narrative practice. When Michael died, we were studying his Maps of narrative practice. I remember I thought at the time, ‘Is this the end of the ideas?’ And then issues of The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work started to come with wonderful new ideas rooted in Michael´s legacy. Now I have the image of narrative therapy and practice growing and growing and giving a new perspective.
Personal and professional legacies
The first time Michael came to México, I met him and thanked him for the wonderful article ‘Saying hullo again’. I told him it had really helped me to have the energy to keep going. When I was telling him how my son had died of AIDS a few months before, I saw tears in his eyes. I thought pollution in the city’s air was the trouble, but when I asked him, he said: ‘My tears are about the pain you have been through with this experience’. That was the moment when I decided I wanted to be this kind of therapist, to be able to join with people the way Michael had been with me. Since then, I have been in the process of embracing narrative ideas more in life.
Part of my work is in a Catholic school where, among other activities, I organise the celebration of ‘Día de Muertos’. I discovered that Mexican traditions, Catholic religion, and narrative practice can give the same messages in a different way, so the school´s ceremony to honour our beloved ones who have died is done with respect and joy; it is beautiful. The former director of this school is a nun who is now working in Cuba, visiting people who are sick and suffering. We are in communication by e-mail and she says that she remembers the narrative ideas she learned in our conversations and this is the way she is helping people to feel better.
One of my purposes in life is to sow narrative ideas, so every morning when I wake up to a new day, I ‘say hullo again’ to my beloved son, to Emily, and to Michael, and we go together to live the day. My experience has been that you can be happier if you live this way, and I need their help to do a better job.