The Power and Influence of Dominant Stories

“It's like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.” - Patrick Rothfuss, Author

Decoding Life's Narratives

Your life unfolds in stories, constantly evolving and shaped by your experiences, interactions, and the world around you. Each narrative can be categorised into a 'dominant' story or an 'alternative' story. These narratives have profound implications on your actions, decisions, and overall life trajectory.

A dominant story in narrative practice is a central, influential story, often reinforced by repetitive experiences or societal norms. These dominant stories shape your perception of your capabilities, your decisions, and your future. 

For example, if someone perceives themselves as an adept driver, this dominant story would influence their confidence and willingness to undertake new driving challenges. However, it's important to remember that the meanings attached to these events and stories aren't neutral. They actively constitute and shape our future.

Our lives, however, are not defined by one single story. We live multistoried lives, and it's possible to tell different versions of the same events. 

Alternative Stories

Alternative stories can develop and even become dominant, influenced by other events, interpretations, and external factors. Our narratives are never devoid of ambiguity or contradiction, making our lives a constant negotiation and interpretation of our experiences.

There are many stories encompassing your past, present, and future. Personal stories often revolve around concepts of self-competence or self-doubt. You might see yourself as “successful” or conversely as “a failure at trying new things”. Likewise, your family and community may have narratives that reflect collective identities, with stories of being “caring”, “dysfunctional”, “isolated”, or “politically active”.

Narratives aren't created in a vacuum. They are deeply influenced by the broader social and cultural context, embodying a wide array of experiences and feedback. The cultural context we inhabit contributes significantly to the interpretation and meaning of our stories. Factors such as gender, race, class, culture, and sexual identity play pivotal roles in shaping the plot of our narratives.

The Power of Questioning Beliefs

The question, "Where does that come from?" (a belief or way of perceiving the world) can prove to be profoundly influential. This question helps recognise the origins of certain beliefs. 

Whenever I encounter an individual articulating a belief that seemingly conflicts with values they've demonstrated through their actions, I often resort to asking this question. This approach holds true when engaging with an organisation or groups, as well.

The dichotomy between dominant and alternative stories often becomes evident as we uncover discrepancies. These inconsistencies, previously concealed, may have been the underlying cause of issues within an individual's or an organisation's circumstances. 

The question has the ability to illuminate the narrative landscape, distinguishing dominant narratives that might need reassessment, and highlighting alternative solutions to challenges.

Navigating Life's Narratives

In conclusion, dominant stories significantly influence our lives, acting as the driving force behind our actions and decisions. The interplay of dominant and alternative stories adds layers of complexity and richness to our narratives, creating a beautiful mosaic of interpretations. While our stories are deeply personal, they are also shaped by the societal and cultural contexts we navigate. Understanding the power of dominant stories and their role in narrative practice allows us to better comprehend the intricate processes of human life and experiences.

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