Narrative therapy

We all have “narratives”, stories that we construct about our lives. The events around us are not quite as objective as we often like to imagine. We take information, feelings, reactions, instincts and we filter events, creating our own stories of what has happened. This active construction of “reality” is understood, analysed and utilised in Narrative Therapy.

Unlike in some therapeutic approaches where the therapist is an “expert”, the Narrative therapist realises that the client is the expert in his or her own life. By working through the narratives of a client’s life – most specifically those that are problematic for current functioning – the client and therapist are able to develop “richer” narratives, which aid the individual with conflict resolution and creating a perspective of self and the world which assist in sounder mental health. In this context, the therapist is a collaborator with the client, helping construct revised meaning.

There are a number of techniques employed in Narrative Therapy, including:

  • Helping the client to “separate” from problems, seeing that they are not the same as their problems. (This externalisation process also includes “strengths” and other more positive aspects of self, so that the client can author a more preferred narrative of self.)
  • Encouraging the client to consider life events which are not dominant in current narratives (e.g. looking for exceptions).

Narrative Therapy developed in the family therapy practices of Australian Michael White and New Zealander David Epston and is still used in relationship counselling. For some practitioners, including Epston, it is common to use not only verbal narratives, but also things such as letters, documents and other supporting objects.

Family Scripts

Family scripts are a conceptualisation which can aid therapists in working with families. The idea is that families have accustomed ways of interacting with each other and these shared stories can be woven not only into the fabric of the nuclear family, but can also take place in trans-generational contexts.

Thus, various family members take upon themselves (or have thrust upon them) certain “parts” in the play that is the life of the family. An abusive father may have himself been brutalised and then treats his son in the same way, who then takes the position of his father in this script, when he becomes a father himself.

The idea is that these scripts are unspoken and family members do not consciously know that they are acting a given part in the family drama. Attempts to change the script can cause hostile reactions from other family members, who do not want someone affecting their own roles.

Part of applying family script techniques to family counselling involves the therapist helping the family members understand their roles and coming up with improved ways of understanding and relating to each other.

Inner Space – The Final Frontier

When I was a small child, I thought nothing could be better than to explore a new world. I was fascinated by science fiction – to see a new world, to explore the stars, to encounter new beings, to imagine new (and generally more noble) ways of existing. All of these things filled me with wonder and desire for things which I knew I would never experience. I have always loved sci-fi for this gift. This ability to be and imagine more.

When I entered my 40s, I had an experience which shook me to my core. I was lost – lost in my head, lost in the world. The only thing which kept me tethered to this world was a very dear four year old who called me “Daddy”. I felt adrift emotionally and the mood shifts, from grief to hostility, were almost more than I could bear. A place that I felt I knew intimately – my mind – suddenly became a strange and frightening landscape.

It was then that I realised that our greatest journeys will never be to other celestial landscapes, our bravest explorations will not be propelled by the thrust required to break orbit of our pale blue dot. Our greatest and most noble paths will not be to the stars, but will be to the infinite abyss within ourselves. To stand at the edge and look into the darkness, to be willing to stare into the darkness – such is a brave and noble act.

You will receive no tickertape parade, no slaps on the back, no heroes’ welcome. Most will not be able to understand either your motivation or the changes which this journey has brought to you. You will be able to discuss your voyage of discovery only with kindred spirits, who have also sailed by the stars.

Daddy, Moon gone!

My son was two
and loved to walk with Dad,
to the fish and chip shop,
where he often got sweets.

Mum requested we pick up dinner
and we walked in the early evening,
the three blocks to the shop.

Walking down a gravel path,
hand in hand,
with trees on the West,
wee Jack looked up and said,
“Daddy! Moon!”

The joy in his young eyes!
He loved the moon
and our nightly tradition of standing outside at his bedtime,
to look up at the moon and stars,
as I sung “Twinkle Little Star” to him.

“Moon, Daddy! Moon!”

So much happiness,
at something we have forgotten to love,
forgotten to view with wonder.

As we walked along,
he sang the Moon’s praises,
in a way only a two year old could.

that huge moon in a light blue sky,

As we had walked along,
it hide itself behind a tree.

My sweet boy could not be comforted,
a few steps later,
it reappeared in all of its brilliance.
“Moon back, Daddy!”

A sterile note from Monsieur Piaget,
could note that my son was learning of “object permanence” –
something Piaget considered to be among a child’s greatest achievements,
but I prefer to imagine that on that magic evening,
my son taught me that for those things over which we have no experience,
and which we cannot extrapolate from what we know,
we are in the same position as my wee boy was that evening.

As he and I walked along,
I considered that death may be no more significant
than the momentary disappearance of the moon behind those trees.

Gerald Lee Jordan
Diamond Harbour NZ
11 March 2013

Hesitant to write

Sometimes you are so eager to write,
of a thought or image roaming through your head,
that you are afraid to approach it.
It feels so pure,
so beautiful –
you feel that you will not do it justice.
So you let it continue to work through your waking
and sleeping

The image I see is one which means much to me,
it is a moment shared with my son.
I want to share its joy,
its intensity,
but I move between feeling inadequate
and feeling that it is his and mine alone.

I know, though, that this should belong to all.
All things beautiful should be shared.

Perhaps tomorrow I will start on putting it in words,
but now,
I will go off to bed,
letting it wander the passes, trails and byways of my memory and mind.
It is mine.

Gerald Lee Jordan
Diamond Harbour NZ
11 March 2013

The Nazarene

Knowing one’s greatest days are past
and yet being dragged along by the currents of time,
ever looking back,
yearning for the place of what was.

Our plan was great,
my brothers,
though we could not foretell,
what would become of it.

To bring compassion to a hostile empire,
to soften the edges of fanaticism,
seemed noble enough a cause.

Sitting on this barren rock,
so far from our home,
I am forced by time and conscience
to weigh what we have done.

They longed for an anointed one,
a ruler foretold.
The masses will believe anything,
Especially when it is consistent with their desires,
This we knew,
and upon this we depended.

Oh, the looks on their faces,
As we continued to distribute the bread and fish,
from place unseen!

On consideration,
A better death could have been planned.
Waiting three days for them to leave became too much,
and one intended a martyr,
became a god.

As with all such movements,
those seeking power and influence
pervert what once was.
And the plan for one to speak of compassion
and die a martyr’s death,
became yet another institution of oppression.

Oh, my brothers!
To have those days over,
I would have remained a builder,
or else sold olives from a stall,
at the entrance to Jerusalem.

Gerald Lee Jordan
Diamond Harbour NZ
10 March 2013

Route six

He lived out in a caravan,
off Route Six.
He could smell the ocean at high tide
and if he was very quiet –
which he often was –
he could hear the waves crashing late at night.

His caravan was old and rusty,
the gift of a dying father.
Old and sturdy,
of a kind no longer made,
while rusty on the outside,
it was water-proof,
with many more years of good use,
so he said.
He refused to paint it,
claiming this “kept the thieves away”.

Inside was everything a single man would want:
a small television,
an even smaller radio,
a coffee machine made between the wars,
a comfortable double bed,
and a bookshelf,
with tomes about wars,
Jack London,
and even a small edition on poetry,
which he kept handy,
but out of sight.

He was on a meagre budget,
so nothing unnecessary here.
Everything had a place and everything knew its place.

In short,
he had the life of which many men would dream.
A life free of burden and cares,
with a folding chair in front of the caravan,
for those rare moments when he wanted to “get away”
and look at the stars.

Peace is never to last
and some say that she sensed his happiness,
as the hunted is tracked by heat and the smell of blood.
If he had known that day she arrived,
he could have run inside and brought out a weapon,
but this was not to be.
His senses weren’t honed to danger.
He had lived too long without being hunted.
He had grown soft –

She was dropped along the road,
by a love affair gone bad.
Her dress was torn,
Her hair out of sorts,
Missing a shoe.
He felt pity.
First mistake.

She told him of the scoundrel and watched his heart break,
She saw that he was almost ready to be reeled in.
She used every trick known to her,
until she felt him ready to be addicted to her magic box.

Looking around,
she realised it wasn’t much –
or rather she couldn’t appreciate what it was –
but it would do,
until something better came along.

She pulled in her catch,
then immediately began changing his life,
moving everything in the caravan,
getting rid of almost everything of value,
replacing his life with cheap and shiny things,
from a shop.

He would never again hear the waves.
It was too loud.
Too much bitching,
Too much screaming.

After changing his outward existence,
she began to deconstruct him from the inside.
In time,
the cost of leaving everything was vastly outweighed,
by the death which awaited one –
or both –
of them.

He looked around the caravan with sadness,
until he saw her.
Grabbing what was left of his wallet,
he headed for the door.
A few cents and a poker chip were all he had,
but such is the cost of freedom.

She lives out in a caravan,
off Route Six.

Gerald Lee Jordan
Diamond Harbour NZ
08 March 2013

The paedophile

Local boy,
Loved town.
Wanted to give something back,
Spent thirty years helping the grieving.

A moment of weakness,
Touched a boy.
Friends disappeared.
Got twenty years,
Neighbour repeatedly violated step-daughter,
Got five,
Along with winks,
And sympathy from friends.

Townspeople showed,
A lifetime of devotion meant nothing,
The trust of family meant as little.

If you see a sign for “Marlow” along the highway,
Roll up your windows and drive swiftly through,
If you must.

Gerald Lee Jordan
Diamond Harbour NZ
09 March 2013

Dave the dildo

She called it ‘Dave’,
After one who got away,
They have been together so long,
She can’t imagine a time without him
In her –

He outlasted all the others,
He was with her through breakups,
The menopause.

He has known thousands of batteries,
As well as every fold of her vagina,
The entrance to her arse,
The entrance to Steve’s,
Who afterwards developed an interest in men.

The end where the batteries go,
No longer stays shut,
Without the help of tape.
She has to hold it just so,
To keep the tape from rubbing against her.
It is not the best thing to realise,
In the midst of the act,
That your lover is held together with tape,
And that you are responsible.

Close your eyes and imagine,
That Dave is Jim,
Or Dave who got away.

A few tears as he goes in the bin,
Then swiftly forgotten,
As ‘William’,
Made in China,
Enters her –

Gerald Lee Jordan
Diamond Harbour NZ
07 March 2013


She stood in the laneway next to the library,
Screaming into the side of her bottled water,
Then putting it on her head and having a very animated discussion,
With beings unseen –
At least to the rest of us on the street.

A man walked swiftly past her,
With curious dog in tow.
A couple stopped across the street,
Stretching to see if perhaps there was someone initially unseen.
The shaking of heads,
Looks of scorn, disgust and pity.

Thought occurs –
Perhaps her conversation was no less valid,
Than the one taking place between a man and his phone.
Who is to say that a water bottle is any less a conversationalist.
Perhaps her recipient was no less attentive,
Than the dog to which the old man was talking.
Perhaps she looked at us with pity for being too mentally unstable,
To see the person who was actually beside her.

Life is assumptions,
Built upon assumptions,
And imperfect observations.

I hope she was able to resolve her conflict with her companion
and that they are able to enjoy another walk together soon.

[To the woman today, with her companion in Lyttelton.]

Gerald Lee Jordan
Diamond Harbour NZ
05 March 2013