Philosophies, theories, and ideologies, our world is full of them. They help us make sense of the human experience and society.
One of these approaches is called social constructionism. This is a theory that believes our understanding of the world is not inherently objective but rather shaped by our social interactions and cultural context. If you have ever questioned your beliefs or what is normal, this theory might resonate with you.
What is Social Constructionism?
At its core, social constructionism suggests that our understanding of reality is not simply discovered but is constructed through our interactions with others. This means that the way we perceive the world is heavily influenced by the societal norms, language, and cultural milieu we are surrounded by. For example, the way we view success, beauty, or intelligence is not universal but can vary significantly across different cultures and societies.
For an example of social constructionism look at a cultural difference between Denmark and the USA. In America, life is often about showcasing personal success with unabashed enthusiasm. In stark contrast, Danish society, influenced by the Law of Jante, views open displays of personal achievement less favourably, promoting humility and equality instead. Here we see two completely different societal constructs shaping distinct behaviours and attitudes.
Another example is the concept of beauty. In some cultures like China or Korea fairer complexion is considered beautiful, while others like western Europe and America value being sun tanned. This encourages people in one culture to avoid the sun, while the other chooses to spend time in the sun or on a sunbed.
Applying the concept of social constructionism to our daily lives helps us understand that our perspectives are not 'natural' or 'inevitable,' but rather they are shaped by our experiences and societal influences.
This can be an empowering revelation because it implies that our understanding of the world is flexible, and therefore, changeable. It provides a foundation, maybe even a motivation for personal growth, societal progress, and can even be a crucial element in therapeutic practices, such as narrative therapy.
Now, you may ask, what is narrative practice, and how does it tie in with social constructionism?
Narrative practice is a respectful, non-blaming approach to counselling and community work, and it is what narrative coaching developed from. It centres you as the expert in your own lives, viewing your problems as separate from you as an individual.
In essence, narrative practice allows you to externalise your issues rather than internalise them. In doing so, it enables you to rewrite or reframe your personal narratives in a more empowering light.
The connection between social constructionism and narrative practice view you as an active participant in shaping your realities. By understanding that your narratives are socially constructed, you can better deconstruct and understand your problems from a different perspective.
In narrative therapy, you get to be the author of your life's story. It's not about changing who you are, but changing how you see yourself and your experiences. You can redefine your relationship with problems and gain greater control over your life. This type of therapy or coaching can be particularly beneficial for those who have faced or are facing adversities or traumas, as it can help you reshape your narratives and find strength in your experiences.
Social constructionism helps us to see that our perceptions of reality are not fixed, but are shaped by our social interactions and cultural contexts. This can lead to a profound shift in how we view ourselves, our relationships with others, and our ability to affect our beliefs.
Narrative practice offers a powerful tool for individuals to rewrite their stories in a way that empowers them and promotes personal growth.
Reclaim your narrative and lead a more meaningful life.
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