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  • Writer's pictureMarc Komori Stager

Changing your relationship to the problem

Salman Rushdie nails it. He describes therapy in one paragraph. In the quote below, he says, I "changed my relationship to the event." The event was getting stabbed!

Salman Rushdie: I had to do it [write a book] in order to deal with it [being stabbed] and in order to be free to do other things. Whether it was therapy--I don't describe it exactly as that. But what it was; it changed my relationship to the event. That is to say, instead of being the person who got stabbed, I now see myself as the person who wrote a book about getting stabbed. And so it feels like it is back in my own authorial space. And I feel more in charge of it, and that feels good.
Terry Gross: Instead of being the victim you're controlling the story.

One of the greatest things therapy can do is change your relationship to the problem. A foundational idea in Narrative Therapy is the person is not the problem; the problem is not the problem; the relationship to the problem is the problem.

Problems like to tell us how to feel about ourselves. Therapy helps us take back the ability of telling ourselves how we will feel about the problems in our lives. That is, we change our relationship to problems, and we do so by claiming authorship. 

But no one is saying it is easy. Mr. Rushdie wrote a whole book to do it. Therapy takes time, as it is kind of like writing a book about yourself, where you are the author and the main character. The therapist, then, can be your co-editor--not in charge, but helpful. Do we still have problems? Yes, of course. But our relationships to those problems is defined by us, not by the problems.

Gross, Terry (Host). (2024 April 25) Salman Rushdie on Surviving Attempted Murder [Audio podcast episode]. In Fresh Air. WHYY Inc.

I added the underlining and the square brackets. This quote comes at 19m:42s

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