L is for Levels and the journey to greater narrative maturity

Orginally published 15 September 2017

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It often feels like we are drowning in a deluge of stories yet parched out of a desire for new narratives. As I listen to my clients and the peers in our programs, I notice that our time and energy is increasingly spent coping with the deluge and the unrequited desires. I feel this myself as I grow into the new name for my business and the new doors it is opening. Overall, there is a growing sense that we need to increase our level of narrative maturity if we want to fulfill more of our aspirations. So, what do I mean by 'narrative maturity’?

Life is meant to be lived fully not hacked efficiently.

Two of the key elements: (1) pausing in order to act from a proactive rather than a reactive state and (2) co-creating healthier collective narratives not just healing personal stories. This requires developing our abilities to self and mutually regulate, be generative not just palliative with our mindfulness, and be more authentic and agile in our narration. We can see all around us the consequences of immature narratives in which we are often pitted against one another rather than rising up to work on solutions together. A lot of this comes down to our inability to work at a higher narrative level. At the heart of my mission with narrative coaching over the last 15 years has been to develop people who facilitate transformation through narratives and stories. Our new Institute will focus on this even more, particularly in applying coaching in new ways to address larger issues.

Four levels of narrative maturity framework

It is based in the extensive work I've done in recent years to bring attachment theory into coaching and to extend how we think about and practice mindfulness.

In coaching yourself or someone else in a given situation:

  • Level 1: To what degree am I accountable as the Author of my stories and able to Cope well?

  • Level 2: To what degree am I authentic as an Actor in others' stories and able to Connect more deeply?

  • Level 3: To what degree am I agile as an Agent in the larger narratives and able to Create new options?

  • Level 4: To what degree am I adept as an Activist for new narratives and able to Contribute to better outcomes?

There are strong links between greater attachment security and greater narrative maturity. How would this work enable you to make more of a real difference in the relationships in your life and/or work?


Sandy Lurins