From the stories you tell to your strengths narrative

“The more we share our own stories, the closer we all become.”[1]

Who did you get those strengths from? What stories have you been told about yourself that relate to your strengths? Have your strengths always been there or have they grown in you? How does it feel to know you will be passing them on to the next generation?

Perhaps you’ve answered most of these questions as you reflected upon your character strengths (those positive traits shown in feelings, thoughts, and actions, which are the foundation of optimal life-long development and thriving[2]). But what would you discover if you directed these questions towards your friends and family? What if you used them on your coaching or therapy sessions?

From wondering to working

Lately, I have wondered about these questions as well as the potential of considering our character strengths a part of our identity and life narrative. So based on the idea that our experiences gain significance from being embedded in our narrative[3] and that positive questions are a powerful means towards positive change[4]. I developed a Narrative-Appreciative Character Strengths Interview. Inspired by David Epston and Kay Ingamells[5] I aim at fostering a positive perspective of the interviewees on their character strengths as idiosyncratic traits which have a story, a legacy (both inherited and transferable) and a future to be framed in a coherent narrative wholeness.

The narrative-appreciative interview into practice

Before I empirically tested this interview on a group, measuring participants’ happiness and strengths use before and after applying it, I tested it on my father. It was an unforgettable and intrinsically transformative moment of genuine, insightful and generative dialogue. It opened a new way of seeing him: through his positive past experiences, unveiling redemption narratives6, and which would, otherwise, be lost in the intricacies of daily life and by anticipating his future in the light of his strengths. As to me, I was simply astonished to have this father the interview had presented me.

Great expectations

Harlene Anderson says that the self “is an on-going autobiography; or, to be more exact, it is a self-other multifaceted biography that we constantly pen and edit” (1997, p. 216).[7] What if we can build appreciative dialogues which encourage positive and significant biographies around character strengths? What if there would be a script for such a dialogue? The Narrative-Appreciative Character Strengths Interview intends to become such a tool. The sample is quite promising. We expect the future to make the dream come true.

About the author: Mariana Mangerão is a psychologist, working in clinical settings, life coaching and training. She has worked for the Portuguese Red Cross in the north of the country for seven years but the urge of studying the best in people made her move to Lisbon to do an Executive Master in Applied Positive Psychology (ISCSP, Lisbon) which she is currently finishing. She loves stories above any other subject (the ones she reads and the ones she is told by the people she helps). www.marianamangerao.com.

Da vida contada à narrativa de forças

“Quanto mais partilhamos as nossas próprias histórias, mais próximos todos nos tornamos.”[1]

De quem herdaste as tuas forças de assinatura? Que histórias do teu passado ilustram as tuas forças? Achas que as tuas forças sempre existiram ou será que as desenvolveste? Que significado tem para ti saber que és portador desta força e que a passarás a alguém da geração seguinte?

Talvez já tenhas pensado na resposta a estas perguntas, ao reflectir sobre as tuas forças de carácter (esse conjunto de traços positivos evidenciados nos pensamentos, sentimentos e comportamentos individuais que constituem os alicerces de um desenvolvimento vital óptimo[2]). Mas o que poderias vir a descobrir se, a título pessoal ou profissional, dirigisses essas perguntas às pessoas mais próximas?

Das inquietações à investigação

Nos últimos tempos, tenho-me debatido com questões como estas e com a ideia de que as forças de carácter são tão mais poderosas quando as perspectivamos como parte da nossa identidade e narrativa de vida. Assim, partindo do pressuposto de que é na medida em que são integradas na nossa narrativa que as nossas experiências vão buscar sentido e significado[3] e de que questionar apreciativamente gera mudanças positivas[4], desenvolvi a Entrevista Narrativa Apreciativa das Forças de Carácter.

Tendo sido inspirada pelos trabalhos de Epston e Ingamells[5], a entrevista pretende desenvolver uma perspectivas positiva dos entrevistados sobre as suas forças de carácter enquanto características idiossincráticas, com uma história, um legado (herdado e transmissível) e um futuro que se pretende enquadrar num todo narrativo coerente, sob um olhar positivo.

A Entrevista Narrativa Apreciativa das Forças de Carácter posta em prática

Antes de aplicar a entrevista com teor científico, sentei-me com o meu pai e fiz-lhe as vinte perguntas que compõem a Entrevista Narrativa das Forças de Carácter. Foi um momento inesquecível e intrinsecamente transformativo entre pai e filha, carregado de intimidade, descoberta e generatividade. Inaugurou uma nova forma de o vermos: ele, revendo-se à luz de experiências positivas do passado, que suscitavam narrativas de redenção[6] e que, de outra forma, ficariam perdidas nos meandros do quotidiano e, simultaneamente, olhando para o seu futuro do ponto de vista das suas forças. E eu, deslumbrada com o pai que eu sempre tive e que agora aquela entrevista me revelava.

Grandes esperanças

Harlene Anderson sugere que “o eu é uma autobiografia permanente; ou, para ser mais exacta, é uma biografia entre mim e o outro, multifacetada, que constantemente editamos.”[7] E se pudermos criar diálogos apreciativos que estimulem biografias positivas e significativas em torno das forças de carácter? E se houver um guião para tal diálogo? A Entrevista Narrativa-Apreciativa sobre as Forças de Carácter pretende tornar-se essa ferramenta. A amostra é promissora. Agora, resta-nos esperar que o futuro se encarregue de tornar o sonho realidade.

[1] Atkinson, Robert. (2002) The Life Story Interview. In Gubrium, Jaber e Holstein, James (Eds.) Handbook of Interview Research. London: Sage Publications. 121-140

[2] Park, Nansook. & Peterson, Christopher. (2009). Character strengths: Research and practice. Journal of College and Character, 10 (4), 1-10.

[3] Gergen, Keneth (1994) Realities and Relationships: Soundings in Social Construction. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

[4] Whitney, Diana e Trosten-Bloom, Amanda (2010) The Power of Appreciative Inquiry: A Practical Guide to Positive Change. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

[5] Ingamells, Kay & Epston, David (2012) Placing strengths into storylines: Building bridges between strengths-based and narrative approaches. The International Journal Of Narrative Therapy And Community Work, 3, 50-61.

[6] Dan McAdams. (2005) The Redemptive Self. New York: Oxford.

[7] Anderson, Harlene. (1997). Conversation, Language, and Possibilities. A postmodern Approach to therapy. New York: Basic Books.

 

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