The purpose of the second phase of the process, Discovering Helpful Stories, is to help the individual to discover more helpful stories that offer more positive possibilities for the future. At this stage, the individual may feel that any positive alternative is simply a fantasy, and not worth engaging with seriously. The longer the individual has been a character, in the grip of the unhelpful story, the more likely it is that this will be a problem. Therefore, it is particularly valuable to make sure that any new, more helpful story is discovered as much as crafted. So the coach helps the individual to find that more positive stories are already implicit or latent in her experience to date.
Frequently, a useful place to start is to seek exceptions to the dominant unhelpful story. Exceptions are those moments when things did not unfold as the unhelpful story would predict. Typically, these are over-looked or minimised in the telling of the story, as they do not support the dominant story, often as a result of confirmation bias.
If the individual struggles to identify any exceptions, another valuable area to explore is the implicit positive values. The reason a story is unhelpful is because it negates one or more desired goods, or values. These may not be explicit in the story, which is why we refer to the implicit positive values. Identifying these values and making them explicit is very helpful.
Identifying implicit positive values, therefore, helps the individual to clarify what she views as desirable, or good, even in an unhelpful story.
Once these exceptions and implicit positive values have been identified and explored, the coach invites the individual to put them together in a new story-line. To be more helpful than the old story, the new story should be more positive, and offer more possibilities for the future.
Again it is helpful to invite the individual to give this new, more helpful story a name, and to ask where she stands in relation to it. For more detail on this phase, read the book…
For an exercise to help you experience this, see here.
Phase 3 is Enrich the Plot.