For the average young person, the idea of recounting, reflecting on, and generally looking backwards on life isn’t especially appealing. Why? Because we are still on the front end of our journey! We are looking forward, trying to make our way in the world. Questions around financial stability, relationships, and fulfillment loom large and leave little room for reflecting on our past. We are changing so much, so quickly, that it is hard to take our eyes off the road in front of us. I get it!
I’m 26 years old and feeling as lost as ever. It’s daunting to learn how to make tough decisions, to take risks and to choose growth over destructive habits. I am personally feeling groundless — struggling with questions of identity, questions around what I really want in life, and what path will bring me true satisfaction. I would venture to assert that I am not alone in these struggles, and that as young people, it is a rite of passage to feel groundless en route to understanding.
‘Personal Histories,’ also known as ‘Life Reviews,’ involve the process of recounting and reflecting on one’s life. They are facilitated by a professional who skillfully opens the door to re-live one’s stories. This process has naturally become associated with the aging population, and it makes sense why. But this does not have to be an exclusively middle-aged and older process. For us young people, re-living how we got to ‘now’ can help us feel grounded, re-oriented, and equipped to move forward skillfully. Here are a few reasons why:
- “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” -George Santayana
Re-visiting our past, however we do so, is much like studying ‘history.’ We have a fresh vantage point to more objectively understand the fruits and follies of past events, experiences, and decisions. Personal History is a form of re-visiting our past, re-entering the present, and ultimately planning the future based on a more full and grounded understanding of ourselves, our patterns, and our path of least resistance.
2. Talking through our past is the best mirror.
Let’s face it — we learn the most from processing and, thus, understanding things from the inside out. Yes, it’s cool to read, watch, or hear something interesting, but does it penetrate as much as hearing our own voice try and try again to make sense of something? The magic of Personal Histories is that the subject is catching his or her own fish, processing their life in a way that only they can. Time and time again, people leave these sessions feeling nourished and clear. They feel ‘heard’ and ‘seen’ by another and they feel revitalized by a renewed connection with themselves.
3. For now. For later. For us. For others.
People find the Personal History process therapeutic regardless of their age or gender. For older folks, the process is often undertaken as a gift for their families, to be passed down through generations. I still enjoy watching my grandfather’s Personal History on occasion. The luxury of undertaking this process at a younger age is that we can face the facts young — we can remember our mortality, adjust our ways to maximize our lives, and reflect on our Personal History for years to come. We can even make it a once-a-decade custom.
Each of us is living our own life, traveling our own path, and accruing our own stories. If you’re at all like me, feeling caught in the turbulent waves of early adulthood, you may find a break in the waves in a Personal History. It certainly won’t hurt, and it may well help you a lot. I wish you well on your journey!