Making sense of your life through storytelling

One of the most precious bits of CPD that I have ever experienced was in a training session on trauma. We were discussing challenging behaviour in schools. The advice was: Don't say ‘What’s wrong with you?' Ask – ‘What happened to you?’. This was a ground-breaking approach to trauma work introduced by Bruce Perry.


Someone’s actions, words or thoughts may surprise or even shock us. But it all begins to make sense when we find out more about the person’s life story. It helps to understand the other person and makes it easier to show compassion for them.

Sometimes, it is easier to do this toward another. But we rarely take the time to explore our own story.

This is not to say that we do not actually have a story in our minds. Frequently, it’s a poorly stitched-together narrative that isn’t a source of pride or inspiration for us. 

We can change that through the power of writing.

“I’m not good at writing things down.”

You don’t have to be the world’s most talented writer to do this. This is a very special (some might say, scared) task. People have been doing this since time immemorial. Everyone needs a powerful story to remind them that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

You may be feeling that the current challenges have brought you to your knees. But if you are reading this now, you are not a quitter.

You are trying, and that’s what every inspirational story is about. It is about trying, learning, and overcoming. It's about growing from suffering. It's about transforming pain into a source of wisdom and strength.

Hence, your autobiography is about gathering evidence. It's a narrative that shows how you have tried and failed and succeeded and failed again. Trust that you have many successes and things to celebrate (even if you have a tendency to see the glass as half-empty).

How to write your story

Not everyone has the luxury of actually sitting down and doing this properly. But even doing a brief exercise in your head can offer a much-needed boost of hope and motivation to you. It is a worthwhile task to attempt at some point in your life.

Below are some suggestions that can help to get you started. For now, even if you cannot start writing things down, just think of where this exercise could take you.

1. Think about the course of your life

Think of the key stepping stones in your life story. Describing the first one often starts with a simple, “I was born.” Look back and think of the people who were important in your life at the time. Try and remember significant events and how those have influenced you.

Their influence might not have always been positive. Even so, they have contributed to your growth as a person. The whole of your life experience is your teacher. It has made you into the capable, creative and solution-focused person that you are today. You are here, seeking to improve your mental health and well-being. You want to discover the best version of yourself. Storytelling is a major part of that.

2. Keep going

Keep identifying key events in your life story, until you get to the present moment. Remember, it is not about documenting your every step. It is about looking for meaning in happenings and changes. For what gives a sense of purpose and direction to your life. It is best to have a dozen anchoring events (regardless of how old you are).

3. Read what you've written

Sit quietly and look at what you have written, noticing how things always change. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But the flow of life continues all the same. It carries you through the many experiences that you encounter along the way.

Ponder on it until you are satisfied that you have managed to grasp the essence of your journey so far. See if you can identify some form of a unifying narrative. A thread that connects the multitude of different events in your life.

4. Dig deeper

When you feel that you are content with the overall theme of your life story, go over it again. Look carefully at each episode and dig deeper. Who were you at that moment in time? What were your views and beliefs back then? How did those affect the way you felt, thought and acted at that time?

What did you care about? What were your relationships like with any significant people at that stage in your life? Who or what motivated or encouraged you? Who or what helped you carry on when things were tough? Who or what contributed to your developing worldview?

You may feel that there has not been much positive change in your life. Commit to looking for people and events that brought light, love and hope into your life. Be alert to any long-forgotten yet deeply meaningful details from your past.

If possible, it may be worth sharing what you’ve written with a receptive family member or a friend. Other people are often better at noticing our strengths. They may spot and celebrate some of our victories that may appear insignificant to us. They may remind you of some other important events. Together, you may be able to identify other interesting trends in your life’s journey.

Everyone needs a companion

Crafting your autobiography is a life-long process. It takes time. But life takes over. It is often hard to find the time and the discipline to do this right on your own. You may want to explore this with a therapist for support and accountability.

  • Hypnotherapy is a great tool for creative storytelling. It allows the imagination to savour all that was good about your experience in the past. Hypnosis makes the memory stronger and more helpful to you in the now.
  • Gentle desensitising through hypnosis may help to make you less intimidated by any past struggles. It gives you control over the memory, if not the event itself. This allows you to reclaim the parts of your life that might have caused your pain.
  • Writing your autobiography is about self-discovery, transformation and growth. Your inner critic may attempt to take over and silence the voice of wisdom in your narrative. A therapist can reinforce the purpose of the exercise and hold you accountable.

Ultimately, the story of your overcoming, conquering and re-birth is already there. It just has to be acknowledged as such. Everyone needs a companion along the way. See if Happiful can help you find yours.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
London, Greater London, SE16
Written by Elena Verigo, DipCBH, MA
London, Greater London, SE16

Elena uses the power of hypnotherapy to make every woman over 40 into a glorious story-teller and writer. Her goal is to equip women with the tools they need to re-discover and re-invent themselves for a truly fulfilling life.

Show comments

Find a hypnotherapist dealing with Trauma

All therapists are verified professionals

All therapists are verified professionals