THE RE-AUTHORING APPROACH
The Re-authoring approach sees human beings as storying beings that have two very important skills with which they navigate their lives: story-making and meaning-making skills. As human beings we connect the dots of our lives through our meaning making capacity and those threads of meaning then become the narrative we tell about who we are (identity), what our relationships are like (community) and how we see the world (reality).
We tell and re-tell narratives through the weaving of significant moments as well as new moments into conclusions about our identities, our relationships and realities. Narratives are therefore very powerful as they shape and maintain who we are and who we can become. As we tell and re-tell these narratives over many years, we gather more and more evidence to support the meaning we have made and these narratives become dominant narratives because we are no longer open to evidence to the contrary, they even become “fact” or “truth”. Although the dominant narratives are well known, they can become thin or single stories, the ones of which we say, “I am or we are always…..”
But these narratives do not fall mysteriously from the sky. They are crafted in a particular cultural and societal context governed by taken-for-granted beliefs and ideas that inform the narratives we tell about ourselves, teams, communities and organisations. Examples of these taken-for-granted beliefs and ideas are the dominant belief in the scarcity of life, the competitive nature of mankind, the inevitability of war, and the belief that only certain elites are authorized to “know” and declare what is true. The power of these taken-for-granted beliefs and ideas are that they give us more of what we have and do not produce anything new. They hide their history, influence and impact on our lives as we shrug our shoulders and tell our friends, “This is just the way it is.” This commitment to the way things are and our ignorance of the powerful effects of these beliefs and ideas are causing so much suffering and hopelessness and yet we have grown accustomed to this way of being.
The re-authoring approach helps us realise how weary we have become of these stories and creates distance from these taken-for-granted ideas and beliefs and the dominant problem-saturated narratives that flow from them. We give the problem narrative a name. We explore the history of the story as well as how we influence and are influenced by the narrative. We examine how the taken-for-granted ideas and beliefs in a particular society inform and sustain the problem narrative.
It asks profound questions about them. In the pursuit of handing back the pen in the hands of individuals, communities and organisations, the biggest invitation is to name the narrative or to create or name a metaphor or image that help authors in their decision to participate in these narratives because in a word or image, is a world! The kind of relationship we want to have with narratives we can eventually choose.
The work continually looks for moments and relationships in our history where that problem narrative was not true, was not the whole truth or was not present. Those different moments and relationships become the seeds for exploring the alternative narrative. We then give this alternative narrative a name. We further explore the ideas, beliefs, skills, gifts and community that can support this alternative narrative.
The re-authoring approach therefore opens options for people to redefine or revise their relationship with narratives. Because narratives are created through language and meaning making, our relationship to them can shift or transform whenever new or alternative evidence, language, knowledge, relationships, ideas and beliefs, or meaning making emerge from the conversation. As the new and alternative ideas and images emerge, options for action that did not occur before and new ways to change become available.
The re-authoring approach seeks to address and confront us with our relationship to authorship, as it invites us to live a life where our participation in our narratives and in the world really matters. As we re-write the narratives we once held to be the truth – and the only truth – about our lives, our communities, our organisations and our world we shift the future of our own lives and the communities we form part of.
Re-authoring questions give us a peek into a possible future that we never thought likely, and a whole new dance with the story takes its first step into becoming. In this work human beings are invited into the possibility of re-authoring our lives, communal and organisational narratives as we take up the pen or the brush and start writing or painting our lives and systems in preferred ways of being in this world. Re-authoring work invites us to live a life where our participation in the world really matters.
The re-authoring approach is influenced and informed by the Dialogic OD Mindset, Narrative Therapy ideas, Critical Pedagogy and Interpersonal Neurobiology.
Photo by Ben & Harriet Kaufman