In each of our families there was an accompanying story like a ‘strap line’, something we would tell other people to describe our family. Some story lines maybe ‘We’re a go getter family’ or ‘Our Mum was always sick but we managed’ or ‘We were always broke but we stuck together’.
Family storylines were usually based on a defensive position coupled with us trying to protect the family secret from outsiders. The reality is that our family storylines were untrue. In this exercise we begin to re-write the family storyline to help us understand the dysfunction and the part we played to keep the family secret safe.
We begin by identifying the family storyline. We then re-write it to reflect the reality. Next we make a list of 5 statements that our family said to us on a regular basis e.g. ‘You should be grateful for what you got’, ‘You’re never going to be as good as your brother’ or ‘You deserve a thrashing’. Finally we list external statements that we heard about the wider family or the world outside e.g. ‘Religion is for peasants’, ‘Granpa’s a wife beater’ or ‘Even though they’re black they’re nice.’