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Contributed by 
Julie Norton; Art by Bridget Steed






Exploring and Listening for Story: the StoryTime exercise can be used to explore and help make sense of a difficult situation or event after the initial crisis has passed and one is emotionally stable enough to reflect on it.


As human beings, we need to make sense of and find meaning in the events that happen in our lives. Narrative approaches can help us define the story we are telling ourselves about particular events and how we have been affected by them. Writing out or talking about our stories can help us find our voice, better understand ourselves, and step into our power by giving us a sense of agency over our own lives, as we can change our stories at any time. We give meaning to our experiences.


Take out a pen or pencil, a piece of paper, and take a moment to pause and reflect on a circumstance or event that have recently had a major effect on your life. The point here is to ask yourself, “What is the STORY you have or are creating around your current experience?” 

One approach is to follow the sequence of steps listed below to create a story, filling in the blanks. This can also be called a 7-beat story:

1. Once upon a time…

2. And every day…

3. Until one day… (the uh-oh moment)

4. … and because of this… (cause and effect) 

5. … and because of this… (more rising anticipation, action, escalation)

6. Until finally…

7. And ever since that day…

Allow yourself to take a moment to reflect on this storyline, perhaps even reading it out loud. Pay special attention in your body to how you feel as you read it.

Reflection questions to consider...

  • How does this story make me feel?

  • If this story had a name, what would it be?

  • Is it possible that there could be multiple storylines and if so, what are some other storylines I can come up with?

  • How do these alternative storylines make me feel? (Allow yourself to lean into and explore the storyline that brings up more positive emotions for you.)

  • What would each storyline’s name be?

Additional Expressive Arts invitations...

  • If my story had a soundtrack, what would it sound like? Consider finding a song or soundtrack that already exists and play or sing it.

  • If my story had a movement, what would that feel like? Create a movement or dance that feels symbolic of this narrative.

  • If my story had illustrations, what would they look like? Consider using art materials to draw or paint images that represent your story.

These explorations may help to externalize some problems and hopefully gain someneeded distance and perspective. Storytelling and the expressive arts (movement, music, drama, song, and visual art) are modalities that help to make sense of and process one’s feelings and emotions and can lead to profound healing.

Expressive Arts and Recovery

Return to Expressive Arts to see more exercises and activities.

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