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Digital Subscriptions > Psychologies > No. 155 > Make your life story legendary

Make your life story legendary

Do you feel stuck and unmotivated? Anita Chaudhuri interviews the experts who can help you challenge the inner story that is keeping you in a place where you no longer want to be

“As humans, when we’re experiencing struggles, we’re subconsciously looking for a story that we can connect with, in order to feel less alone”

When Janina Scarlet first moved to the United States from her native Ukraine at the age of 12 with her family, she couldn’t speak a word of English and had no friends. Worse, she had been exposed to radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, s till suffered from excruciating migraines and her classmates thought she was contagious.

‘I was the strange kid from another country. I was picked on, lonely and had no one with whom I could identify. Then I went to the cinema to see the first X-Men movie. That’s when I really understood the true power of story. The characters had also been exposed to radiation. They too had been bullied and ostracised; they had been put in danger and yet they used their story and their deep pain to become superheroes and help other people. It occurred to me that I could use my story to help others, too – and that’s what inspired me to study psychology.’

In time, Scarlet was able to write a new story for herself and she now practises ‘superhero therapy’ to help others get their lives back on track. She has just created an innovative book, Therapy Quest (Little, Brown, £8.20), which is structured as a role-playing game, where readers choose multiple-choice options to create their own personalised hero’s journey. But what is it about story that is so powerful? ‘Stories have been used for thousands of years to help people process and understand their experiences. As human beings, when we’re experiencing struggles in life, very often we are subconsciously looking for a story that we can connect with, either from someone who we know, a fictional character, or even a person in the news. We have a desire to identify with a hero, in order to feel less alone. When we read or hear about another person overcoming difficulties, we feel better about ourselves.’

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