We are Joined by the Taste of a Dream

Less than a year ago, I was living in Guatemala on the shores of the beautiful Lake Atitlan amongst indigenous Maya communities rich in resilient cultural traditions that have persisted over centuries in spite of systematic attempts to annihilate this diversity of cultures through colonization and subsequent years of ethnocide against the Maya in this complex country. Working with youth to make documentary films aiming to preserve their cultures and amplify youth voices and self-representations in the media landscape, I saw great potential for digital narratives to transform lives. I am privileged to have met many inspiring young leaders who began using film to re-value their cultural heritages, and working closely with them,

My dear friends Elena, Josefa and me at a community celebration in San Juan la Laguna, Guatemala

I became a trusted confidant and learned of and witnessed many of the traumas they faced in their daily lives.

 

It was these experiences that motivated me to seek a training opportunity in narrative therapy. I had read everything I could about this approach to working with traumatized individuals and communities, and hoped that an intensive, hands-on training would equip with me the skills I need to apply this story-based therapeutic approach to my digital media work with youth. With the aim of learning how I could combine a narrative therapy approach with digital media workshops for traumatized youth, I attended a 5-day intensive training in narrative therapy at the Evanston Family Therapy Center, just outside of Chicago, Illinois.

The training was a transformational experience that brought together the lives and stories of participants from the various parts of the United States, Canada, Venezuela, Nicaragua, China, India, Peru, and France. Narrative therapy is based on the idea that people make sense of their lives through stories, and too often, these stories become problem-saturated. Through storying and making meaning of new events in our lives, we can understand ourselves in richer and more complex ways that aren’t based on a single, problem-saturated narrative. Eliciting stories from people can help to separate people from problems and identify ways in which people have acted outside of problem narratives, emphasizing their knowledge, skills, and abilities, and connecting problem narratives to broader socio-cultural discourses.

The amazing group of training participants with facilitator Jill Freedman

 

In addition to teaching the theoretical bases of narrative therapy and its worldview, the training offered many hands-on opportunities to practice inquiry skills, engage in group-level activities, try out intervention techniques, and really experience the benefits of narrative therapy. I learned a lot about the lives and experiences of my fellow participants through their stories, and in sharing my own, I connected with participants and found new meanings for the events in my life.

One of the most powerful group exercises we participated in focused on questioning marginalization, and allowed participants to share and make meaning of stories of instances in which participants were made to feel they didn’t belong by virtue of race, class, gender, religion, or membership in a particular group. Participants described experiences of sexism, social exclusion, transphobia, anti-immigrant discrimination, and racism. This exercise also elicited from participants the unique and inspiring ways in which they fought back or resisted, acted in spite of, or transcended these experiences of marginalization.

Danielle, Ngozi, and me on our last day of training

Hearing participants’ vivid descriptions of specific moments in their lives when they acutely felt the impact of social injustice fostered great empathy in me as I connected with their stories, and also encouraged us to reflect on how to transform these experiences from individual, personal problems to societal issues that we can stand together to fight against.

A visual of narrative therapy work: each dot represents a life experience that can be storied into connection with others

The training left me energized, motivated, and eager to adapt what I’ve learned for use in my own work. I am excited to begin using the narrative therapy approach in my digital media work with youth who have experienced trauma, supporting them in making new meaning of traumatic life events and leveraging digital media to advocate for social change. I am thrilled to be a part of the narrative therapy community, and I hope to attend additional trainings in the future. I am so grateful to the Taylor Center’s Changemaker Catalyst Award for supporting me in this endeavor by allowing me to attend this invaluable training that has sparked my creativity and opened up so many new paths!

The following song, written by Margarita Boom from Mexico for a conference entitled “The Spirit of Community: Narrative Therapy and Cuban Social Programs,” perfectly encapsulates my narrative therapy experience. I used one of her lyrics as the title for this post, so I wanted to close with the song from which it comes.

 

Brother of the Sun and of Time

Let me hold your story
and fill my hands
with new sensations
that I’ve never seen before
which have never existed
which I couldn’t have understood without your song

They bear your name and trace out a road.

Let me take with me
a piece of our
time together
and savour the warmth a friend leaves behind.

Brother of the sun and of time
who cares what colour the wind is? We are joined by the taste of a dream

Of being hand in hand holding
a small piece,
a bit of a world

where you are allowed
to walk at your own pace to feel what you feel
and, although different, to sing your own song.

Let me take your conscience and leave taking with me
the certainty
that although we are different we’re alike

That the heart beats to the same beat
but your form
creates a new rhythm

Let me learn your music and enrich my world with the look of your eyes and to find in your soul

a new home.

Brother of the sun and of time
who cares what colour the wind is? We are joined by the taste of a dream.

 

Hermano del sol y tiempo

Deja que estreche tu historia y se llenen mis manos

de nuevos sentidos, que nunca habia visto, quenunca habin sido, que no habri podido entender sin tu trino, que tienen tu nombre que traza un camino.

Deja ue lleve conmigo un pedazo de tiemp compartido
y el sabor a tibieza que deja el amigo.

Hermno de sol y tiempo
qhe imp[orta el color del viento! Nos une un sabor a sueno.

A mano con mano
Ir sosteniendo
un pedazo,
un cachito de mundo donde se pemita andar a tu paso,

sentir lo que sientes, y aunque diferente, cantar con tu canto.

Dej que tome tu conciencia y me lleve de vuelta
la certeza
que siendo distintos, somos parecidos

Que el corazon late los mismos latidos, pero que tu forma nventa

otro ritmo

Deja que aprenda tu musica y enriquezca mi mundo
con tu mirada
y tenga en tu alma

una nueva morada. Hermano el so y tiempo

que importa el color del viento! Nos une un sabor a sueno