Sakis : No, I am not, because if something happens to my family I want to be able to leave straight away.
Sakis : Well, if anything happens to my family… if I get a job it will tie me down here and then I will have to find excuses… that I need to go… and get a leave…. Interviewer : You wanted to make a fresh start away from them? Interviewer : Does your family know you are in Athens?
That… that you live on the streets? Do they know that? Sakis : My dad knows. She just knows that I am here. And my brother knows I live on the streets. She is very antisocial and … […]. Interviewer : I wonder, when you look back on your life, where there any moments… when you look back… that were important in your life, some type of milestone, one could say. Nothing that important. Simply… simply… it was a simple life.
Can Science Explain Why We Tell Stories? | The New Yorker
I may do it sometime, but not now. Then they throw you out again. They may renew it… Start collecting [documents] all over… And there are restrictions… time limits. You have to be back… They keep you inside… this is what some people I know told me, who have been there. Interviewer : So, ok, when you are out here you feel a bit more…. Would you want something changed? Sakis : I am thinking of going back at some point long pause. And it will be just like before. He repeated that the crucial point in his life was his decision to leave his parental home, but did not give reasons for his choice of graph.
Participants placed emphasis in being home-less but not house-less! More specifically, the findings of the present study demonstrate that homelessness per se was not referred to as a turning point by homeless participants. However, they also emphasised the importance of providing for this alternative family, a give-and-take which creates a sense of real belonging. Some of or participants were re-experiencing loss in entangled vicious circles; ii experiences of homelessness which are complex but not always negative ; turning points signified changes sometimes to the worse and sometimes to the better, sometimes as part of a saga.
The story-line graphs which the 8 participants themselves chose as being the most representative of their lives, were progressive romantic saga, comedy, happily-ever-after with the exception of one regressive tragedy , despite the continuity in hardship and traumas. As mentioned in the beginning, broken narratives are expected to lack hope. To complicate matters further, our own guess of which graph would best represent their life narration did not occasionally match their own choices, pointing to a mismatch between the way they-as tellers- appeared to evaluate their life course and the way we- as listeners- interpreted their narratives.
We intend to repeat the use of such graphs as adjuncts to life interviews in researching the experiences and identity formation of other populations. In any case, progressive narratives are probably connected to efforts of creating meaning. As part of such efforts, it is possible that many homeless adults in our study struggled to see the experience of homelessness and their choices e. In discussing alternative interpretations of similar findings among the homeless youth, Toolis and Hammack mention that it is possible that any other way of telling their story would be too demoralizing.
After all, we do have an internal audience that is constantly present.
We should also not forget the teachings of narrative psychology that audiences -other than the self- shape the content of the self-narrative to a considerable degree. The same participants might have presented the unfolding of their lives in a different way to a counsellor or social worker, emphasising hopelessness and demoralisation with the purpose of receiving better help. What matters mostly in our view, is whether progressive narratives can be sustained in the long run.
The experience of professionals working with homeless who are often also drug users, indicates that, in fact, good outcomes are linked to the ability of putting together a narrative that supplies meaning and hope, but in an enduring way.
This Is Your Life (and How You Tell It)
We know that after his release from prison, Oscar Wilde wandered penniless and homeless in London and Paris, rejected from his ex-wife and disconnected from his children. His narrative of hope and change -expressed in his famous letter- was not enduring and he died only a couple of years later. Finally, our findings point to the disrupted and broken nature of self-narratives of the adult homeless, which often rendered them unintelligible to various degrees. Especially evident in this respect were their chaotic timelines. The interviewees found it difficult to narrate events in any sort of time sequence and the interviewer often struggled to make sense of what happened and when, or what followed what.
Additionally, and even though the aspect of narrative form which regards linguistic features was not the focus of the present analysis, we noticed that narratives of turning points, even if these points regarded the creation of new relationships and the existence of positive experiences, were often full of unacknowledged contradictions.
There was also a frequent use of narrative strategies to regulate emotions e. We hope that some of the empathy we felt has come across to readers. It appears that the actual lack of accommodation was not the main concern expressed by our participants. Responses focusing mostly on the importance of shelter and linked opportunities for employment e. Services should take into account that, through the experience of homelessness, homeless people may be negotiating the possibility of creating closer and more meaningful relationships.
Some misunderstanding may also occur due to presuppositions of the dominant culture. It is often assumed that in Mediterranean countries like Greece, families are always willing to provide a support network or safety net.
Stories, Narratives, and Storytelling
We noticed that this was not so in the cases we encountered. Not only families were apparently unwilling to support participants, but participants often felt alienated for good reasons. Finally, we saw that various traumas, mostly familial, accumulated in the lives of participants beginning in childhood or adolescence. Such unfortunate circumstances have also been reported by the homeless in Greek social policy studies e. Kourachanis, It follows that early prevention based on counselling and other family interventions is crucial see the work of Roberts, , with street children and their families living in South America.
Based on the findings of the present study, we suggest that counsellors need to help homeless persons create enduring progressive narratives, narratives that can be presented to their own self and to others with some degree of coherence to make them intelligible. Persons can be helped to:.
Narrate experiences with continuity and directionality Androutsopoulou et al. Give more attention to positive experiences and emotions that may even constitute unacknowledged turning points. Help extend stories of trauma to include the present position of empowerment e. Give voice to painful emotions caused by abandonment and rejection see Levitt, ; Rogers et al. One way to do this is by helping persons develop reflective inner voices Androutsopoulou, ; Hermans, a , b that can: i recognise both negative e. This project was carried out on a voluntary basis and no economic exchange of any sort took place.
The project received no funding from any organisation, including the affiliated Institute. We would like to thank all eight participants in this study, D. Andrews, M. Beyond narrative: The shape of traumatic testimony. Tamboukou Eds. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins. Androutsopoulou, A. Fiction as an aid to therapy: A narrative and family rationale for practice.
Journal of Family Therapy, 23 , Qualitative Psychology, 2 , Journal of Family Therapy, 26 , Arapoglou, V. Revisiting the concept of shelterisation: Insights from Athens, Greece.
European Journal of Homelessness, 9 , Baerger, D. Life story coherence and its relation to psychological well-being. Narrative Inquiry, 9 , Baker Collins, S. From homeless teen to chronically homeless adult: A qualitative study of the impact of childhood events on adult homelessness. Critical Social Work, 14 , Belcher, J.
Social stigma and homelessness: The limits of social change. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 22 , Bruner, J. Acts of meaning. The narrative creation of self. McLeod Eds.