Narrative Quotes

The problem is the problem, the person is not the problem.

– Michael White and David Epston

The most powerful therapeutic process I know is to contribute to rich story development.

—Michael White

I was wondering, Serena, if I might get to know you through your wonderfulnesses?

-David Epston

We know what we do, we think we know what we think, but do we know what what we do does?

– Michael Foucault

The healing gesture … is not intended to explain it away or fill in the abyss but simply to affirm that they are not alone, that our common madness is a matter of degree, that we’re all siblings in the same night of truth. The healing gesture is not to explain madness if that means to explain it away but to recognize it as a common fate, to affirm our community and solidarity.

– Phillip Caupto

Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you.

– Aldous Huxley

And what of solidarity? I am thinking of a solidarity that is constructed by therapists who refuse to draw a sharp distinction between their lives and the lives of others, who refuse to marginalize those persons who seek help, by therapists who are constantly confronting the fact that if faced with the circumstances such that provide the context of troubles of others, they just might not be doing nearly as well themselves.

– Michael White

If you don’t believe, to the bottom of your soul, that people are not their problems and that their difficulties are social and personal constructions, then you won’t be seeing these transformations. When Epston or White are in action, you can tell they are absolutely convinced that people are not their problems. Their voices, their postures, their whole beings radiate possibility and hope. They are definitely under the influence of optimism.

– Bill O’Hanlon

In spite of all of our education telling us that we do know, we try to listen for what we don’t know.

– Anderson and Goolishian

A goal of our work is to encourage awkward conversations, conversations that are usually constrained by such fears as being inappropriately racist, ageist, elitist or sexist, and to move through the gateways of anger and protest that occur in such conversations with a discourse that provides for and respects differences.

-John Prowell and Dean Lobovits

Today, psychologists have a favorite word, and that word is maladjusted. I tell you today that there are some things in our social system to which I am proud to be maladjusted. I shall never be adjusted to lynch mobs, segregation, economic in equalities, “The madness of militarism,” and self-defeating physical violence. The salvation of the world lies in the maladjusted.

– Martin Luther King Jr.

Problems develop when people internalize conversations that restrain them to a narrow description of self. These stories are experienced as oppressive because they limit the perception of available choices.

– Kathleen S.G. Skott- Myhre

We believe it is our responsibility as therapists to cultivate a growing awareness of the dominant (and potentially dominating) stories in our society and to develop ways of collaboratively examining the effects of those stories when we sense them at work in the lives and relationships of the people who consult with us.

– Freedman and Combs

Therapists are “trafficking in human possibilities rather than settled certainties.

– Jerome Bruner

In countering the effects of a problem-saturated story, it is important to develop as rich, detailed, and meaningful a counter-story as possible.

– Freedman and Combs

The map of verbal description does not fully represent the territory of lived experience, including the richness of visual symbolic processes, feelings, emotions, and sensations.

-Jennifer Freeman et. al.

Every time we ask a question, we’re generating a possible version of a life.

– David Epston

To Foucault, language is an instrument of power, and people have power in a society in direct proportion to their ability to participate in the various discourses that shape that society.

– Freedman and Combs

The repudiation of the traditional logocentric image of the human being as Knower does not seem to us to entail that we face an abyss, but merely a range of choices.

– Richard Rorty

Stories become transformative only in their performance.

– E. Bruner

Postmodern therapists do not believe in “essences.”  Knowledge, being socially arrived at, changes and renews itself in each moment of interaction.  There are no prior meanings hiding in stories or texts.  A therapist with this view will expect a new and hopefully more useful narrative to surface during the conversation, but will see this narrative as spontaneous rather than planned.  The conversation, the the therapist is its author.

– Lynn Hoffman

Speaking isn’t neutral or passive.  Every time we speak, we bring forth a reality.  Each time we share words we give legitimacy to the distinctions that those words bring forth.

– Freedman and Combs

..there are both obvious and subtle differences in the power individuals and particular interest groups possess to ensure that particular narratives will prevail in family, group, and national life.  Not all stories are equal.

– Joan Laird

…in any developed society there are many sub universes of meaning.

– Berger and Luckman

…the postmodern argument is not against the various schools of therapy, only against their posture of authoritative truth.

– Kenneth Gergen

The therapist’s task should not be a proselytizing of the patient with his own beliefs and understandings. No patient can really understand the understandings of his therapist nor does he need them. What is needed is the development of a therapeutic situation permitting the patient to use his own thinking, his own understandings, his own emotions in the way that best fits him in his scheme of life.

– Milton Erickson

The evaluation of the self is a pursuit that naturally halts one’s progress in time. The evaluation of experience can help propel one into the future.

-Revealed by chance and luck to anon

We tell ourselves stories in order to live. ….We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely… by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the ‘ideas’ with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria — which is our actual experience.

― Joan Didion

As we become aware of ourselves as storytellers we realize we can use our stories to heal and make ourselves whole.

–  Susan Wittig Albert

When the family or its members and not the problems end up in therapy then therapy becomes another cultural site for discipline, diagnosis, and confirming the status quo.

-Dean Lobovits