In reflection of these writings I find myself drawn to the importance of the Special Ways of Re-membering and how finding ways to bring people with us, those who are no longer living can make a difference to people’s lives (Barbara Wingard 2011). I feel when thinking of ways of re-membering are we limited in what we are enquiring about in conversations, are we always looking to reconnect with the ones that we have lost or is it possible we are looking to find parts of ourselves that may have been lost or forgotten through time. How do we make meaning of these experiences in our lives and as we remember what might we become more curious about in these conversations, what might be possible to acknowledge in conversations that might go unacknowledged or remain invisible in peoples lives. Sometimes just re-membering one single moment can be a significant turning point in changing their lives, especially if the memory can be described in detail (Barbara Wingard 2001). As we invite people to retell stories about the connection they have with people who have passed or are still living we start to remember the qualities and values to life they have shown us. What are the histories of these skills and knowledges in their lives and the significant others whom can be implicated in the know how of these skills and values.
I find that re-membering practice for me is a very important technique within narrative as I find myself helping people enquire about the way they act in their lives in accordance to what they give value to and what they’d hope for. Re-membering conversations are shaped by the conception that identity is founded upon an “association of life” rather on a core itself (Michael White 2007).
Within my role as a family counsellor as part of a well being team I facilitate group learning circles. As the facilitator I had the opportunity to design a collective timeline based around the re-membering practice for my colleagues. This collective timeline enquired, what has drawn you to work in the Human Service industry? This was an opportunity through questioning for the people within the group to retell stories of significant events and people in their lives and a way of tracing values, hopes and beliefs.
We questioned what was the date you started working in the Human Service Industry? Could they remember what was driving them to work in the industry? Was there a particular hope, commitment, dream, value? I asked them to come up with a name for this theme and place it above the date.
We questioned what was the history of this hope, commitment, dream or value? What date did this come into your life? I suggested this would be an earlier date than the one you first listed please name the earliest date you can connect your theme to. I suggested this could even be a date prior to your birth if you consider your actions of helping people suffering through hard times are carrying on the efforts of others who came before you. I suggested that this could be parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles, guardians/carer, teachers, coaches an inspirational person or even a role model. I asked them when thinking of this there could be one or several people/persons please feel free to add as many as you like.
As I facilitated the collective timeline I asked people to tell stories about the date they started in the Human Service industry, in doing that we started to enquire through conversations about where their hope, commitment, dream or value had come from in a way of re-membering.
These enquiries and retelling of stories had them re-membering significant others and the connections they had with them. As they began to retell their stories I placed significant parts of their stories and dates on the timeline. This process began to evoke even more stories of re-membering.
We questioned who would be least surprised to know the work you are doing is important to you? I suggested this could be a person or persons you may have already placed on the timeline, if not and is somebody different feel free to add them.
I asked the group when you think of this theme, what is drawing you to do the work you do? What image comes to mind? What picture can we include on this timeline to symbolise this? I suggested this could be a drawing or a cut out from the magazines I had provided. The offering of magazines was in a way helping people who potentially might have struggled to come up with an Image as they were re-membering. This offer of pictures and abstract images could possibly evoke what their theme may have meant to them. It was also a way to curve the issues and any worries in and around having to physically draw an Image to their theme. The Collective Timeline generated is pictured below.
For me this was the first opportunity to embrace a part of narrative practice in a group setting. It was amazing to see the power of re-membering, with all people from the group being colleagues.
I was able to obtain direct feedback on how the process of the collective timeline felt for them through ways of re-membering. Some people’s thoughts left them wanting to add more to the timeline, others felt that they gained a much more personal perspective of their colleagues as they listened to their stories of how their values came to be. The ways of re-membering for one staff member felt that it took them back in time for all the right reasons and showed them the importance that older generations have on our ways of being and doing.
Re-membering through this timeline evoked many feelings and emotions. Some were conflicted with whether or not they should share but once deciding to do so there was a sense of relief, others where amazed as they started to remember interesting connections to key people in their lives and how their actions possibly contributed to the people they are today. As the group debriefed after participating in the process of re-membering through the collective timeline, hearing stories from self and others had highlighted for them the reasons why they work in the industry.
As the days passed people continued to reflect on other significant people whom have had an impact on their lives and how their support and encouragement had lead them to where they are today and also the importance of them continuing to do what they do into the future.
I have many ideas based around how I may use the practice of re-membering whether it be with groups or individuals, what would be the possibilities, what could we search for? Whose voices had been influential with regard to the construction of the person’s identity (Michael White 2007)? Would it be learnings from significant others or even maybe strategies of coping through hard times that we possibly may have taught ourselves? I believe in the ways of using the technique of re-membering the possibilities may be endless as we retell stories of our past.
As I look at possible dilemmas that may have had a potential impact on this collective timeline, I noticed as people began retelling stories of significant events and others in their lives certain feelings and emotions were starting to show face. As peoples vulnerability began to show I noticed some members of the group were becoming reluctant to share. In a way of curving their reluctance to share about significant others that may have passed we kept our focus on skills and knowledge they had taught them and good memories they shared.
White, M. (2007). Re-membering conversations. In Maps of Narrative Practice (Chapter 3, pp. 129-164). New York, USA: W.W. Norton & Company
Wingard, B. (2001) in Wingard, B. & Lester, J. (eds) Telling Our Stories in Ways that Make Us Stronger (Chapter 7, pp.41-44). Adelaide: Dulwich Centre Publications.
Wingard, B. (2011) A reflection from Barbara Wingard, International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, 1, 54-56. Click here to return to the Re-membering Conversations Lesson