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In my practice, I often use metaphors to illustrate many truths which can be applied in people’s lives to promote understanding, healing or enrichment. One of my favorite metaphors, which underpins several others, is the notion of the “book” of each person’s life. Over the course of the next several posts, I’m going to share this image of a book with you as the basis of knowing and accepting the privilege and joy of being you. I’ll be using the female pronouns (she, her, hers) in the examples moving forward.
Each person is entrusted at birth to compose the book of her life. She is born into a family endowed with certain tendencies and potential which will draw her in a particular life direction. Only she can hone these tendencies and potential to turn them into talents and skills which, when employed well in her life, can bring her a sense of fullness, contentment, and joy. When combined with her particular mix of interests, life circumstances, and relational history, her story will be unique.
She is the heroine of her own story, the star. She alone has control of her character’s moral, intellectual, physical, spiritual, emotional (etc.) development and the life choices she makes. These are her responsibility. She cannot borrow them from anyone else, nor can anyone else create them in her – she alone must do the work of becoming the person she desires to be.
Her family of origin is already written into her storyline; she cannot choose these characters. However, they are only supporting actors in her book while she is the main protagonist. While these family members have no control over the development of her character or the direction of her book, she also cannot control what these other characters do. By adolescence, however, she becomes responsible to determine the roles for each character in her story: who will remain in their role as supporting characters, who will enter as new cast members, and who will be written out of the story altogether. No one else can make or nurture these relationships for her; the choice and the work of developing these relationships is solely her responsibility and privilege.
Barring circumstances beyond her control, by the time she reaches adulthood she has complete authority over her script to determine its direction. For the most part, she decides what education and career paths she will pursue, where she will live, which creature comforts she will surround herself with, and which leisure activities and hobbies she will pursue. She alone can decide to develop healthy or unhealthy coping skills (like addictions) or continue in health or unhealthy relationships (like codependency). She is in control of how much of her time and energy she expends on pursuing each aspect of her life, and she alone is responsible for the consequences (pleasant and unpleasant) of her choices.
In our Western culture, as the author of her book, she is fully and solely responsible to determine the nature of her chosen family. She alone will choose whether to take a life-partner on her journey, and she alone will determine when a suitable companion is found; only she and that individual will be responsible for their decision to become life partners. Only she and her partner will choose whether to have children, and how she would like those children to be raised. No parent or friend can rightly make these decisions for her; only she and her life partner can mutually write these chapters in each of their individual books, and in the separate book of their marriage.
Finally, the star of her own book is also solely responsible to determine her outlook on life, the intentions of her heart, and her attitude. These are established at a very early age, with the influence of her family of origin, but they can be changed. Often, life-altering circumstances have a way of creating an environment ripe for making such changes. Additionally, each individual must determine for herself which character traits she values enough to develop at which points in her life.
Over the coming several posts, I intend to expand these notions more fully. I’ll leave you with one sobering thought: there is no room for ghost-authors or even co-authors. Your book is yours and yours alone to make it a classic.
Sometimes, other’s life choices impact our lives in distressing ways. As a therapist, I can help you create a meaningful narrative despite your life circumstances. My desire is to empower you to write the story of your life in a way that emboldens you to become the best YOU that you were uniquely created to be.