As a method for understanding ourselves and connecting with others, there may be no equal to telling your life story. A life story is the story we tell of our entire life experience, remembering as much about our life as we feel is important now and want others to know about us. More important than historical reconstruction in telling a life story is how we see ourselves and want others to see us.
Our stories contain the same enduring elements, motifs and archetypes that express the common twists and turns of the path of life. They are made up of many repetitions of the pattern of beginning, muddle, and resolution, which describes the process of transformation common to all lives. We can therefore see this as a sacred pattern, or a blueprint, that offers a structure forming the plot of a life story and facilitating lifelong growth and development.
The life story provides a practical and holistic method for making sense of our lives in the context of this timeless and universal framework. The resulting first-person narrative brings forth the voice and spirit of the storyteller. This approach is built upon a respect for individual storytellers and a regard for the personal meaning carried within their stories (Atkinson, 1998).
You can use this interactive protocol to write your own life story or to interview someone else for their life story. If you want to assist and guide some one else in telling their story, these basic interview guidelines might be helpful.
Either way, you can go topic by topic through the suggested questions. You could also start with a brief introductory opening section, a short overview or life summary in the form of a few of highlights that make sense to you to bring the major threads of your life into focus.
Birth and Family of Origin
Cultural Settings and Traditions
Love and Work
Historical Events and Periods
Inner Life and Spriritual Awareness
Major Life Themes
Vision of the Future
In following these guidelines for telling your life story you will end up with a subjective text, a first-person narrative, in your own words that becomes the essence of what has happened in your life. A typical life story covers your entire life experience, highlighting the most important aspects.
The Life Story Interview (R. Atkinson, Sage, 1998) contains detailed guidelines, as well as over 200 suggested questions (both thematic and chronological) covering the entire life course that can be asked. The questions here are just a sampling of those suggested questions; they are meant to be guidelines only in helping you tell your story the way you want it to be told, so that you will end up with the story you want others to remember you by. Use the questions that speak to you the most clearly or directly to help you tell your story, and also answer whatever other unasked questions might also get at what matters most to you about your life.