Definitional Ceremony

This activity is adapted from the narrative therapy and community work of Michael White (2011), which helps a person or a group acknowledge multiple past allies, aspirations for their lives, significant discoveries, problem-solving practices, etc. so as to write and realize alternative scripts (or narratives) to the ones that are limiting their lives. Two processes are combined in the Definitional Ceremony:
  • Re-membering conversation with a focal person. This evokes “life” as a club with many members, promoting a sense of identity that emphasizes the contributions that others make to our lives and to our understandings of self.
  • Outsider witnesses from the workshop participants or other community. After they listen to the Re-membering Conversation, they are asked questions based on what they hear the focal person say. In turn, the focal person is asked similar questions based on what they heard the Outsider Witnesses say.
  • Script for Facilitator

    (yy = person at the focus; zz = current situation of yy that invites a Re-membering Conversation, to be filled in before starting the Conversation; xx = the person they choose to re-member with. Three outsider witnesses are chosen before the activity starts.)

    1. Re-membering conversation

    Could you think of someone who's been in your life that wouldn’t be surprised that you would be [zz]?
    a. Can you tell me something that xx contributed to your life? What did they invite you to share in, to be part of?
    b. Could you say something about what xx appreciated about you that had them contributing these things to your life?
    c. Thinking back, what did you do to take in their appreciation?
    d. What do you think it contributed to xx's life that you were available for them to take an interest in and appreciate? How do you think xx's life was different for knowing you in the way that they did?
    e. What has it been like to talk, as we have been, about you and xx?
    Now please sit back and listen while I ask a series of questions of the listeners.

    2. Outsider witness retelling

    a. What particular words or phrases struck you as yy was speaking?
    b. What images came to mind about what was important to yy?
    c. What is it about your life that meant these images came to mind?
    d. What has been confirmed for you by making this connection with what yy said?
    e. What difference will remembering this make in your own life?

    Finally, I’m going to ask yy a similar set of questions about what they heard.
    a. What particular words or phrases stood out for you?
    b. How are they connected to values that are significant for you?
    c. Does anything seem more possible for hearing these things?
    d. Can you describe what the first steps to take might be?
    e. What's it been like to talk as we have been?
    f. Is there anything more you want to say?

    Thank you to everyone.

    White, M. (2011). Narrative Practice: Continuing the Conversation. New York: Norton.