Coming Home

We become the stories we tell ourselves
— Michael Cunningham, A Home at the End of the World

The above line is not in the 2004 film adaptation of Michael Cunningham's novel, but it is a pithy summary of how the protagonists live their lives.

Mr. Cunningham's tale about redefining love and family might have been considered daring upon publication, but in today's context, it no longer seems ground-breaking. Thankfully, it's acutely-observed and masterfully written - in telling the story of beautiful, wounded Bobby, his sensitive best friend Jonathan, and the seemingly free-spirited but secretly conventional Claire, and how the three of them become the twin loves of each others' lives, Mr. Cunningham created an ode to the resilience of love and the human spirit.

The construction of identity and self-hood lies at the core of much of the work in counselling and psychotherapy. Clients often bring some version of themselves, a survival personality who has served them well most of their lives, but who - through crisis or change - no longer feels as effective and comfortable. Clients begin to realize that the stories they have constructed about their lives might not be altogether accurate or true. The work in therapy is in recognizing that while the details, specifics and particulars might fall away, the emotional truth behind the stories hold power and meaning, and are worth cherishing, exploring and integrating into their lives now.

The individual self is not really one person or another - it is a place of awareness and choice from which the individual is able to choose how to feel, behave or react in different circumstances. Often, without a conscious awareness of self, people make choices and take actions based on defensive personality traits that might have been useful in the past - moment by moment, the self creates a new version of an old story, even though the story might no longer be a good fit for present reality. Getting to know one's self through therapy allows the individual to be clear on who the self is, and what the self wants, so that the person can feel at ease with the choices they make and the actions they take. This is how the stories they tell reflect their truth. This is how they become true.