What a dense and chewy essay! I have three thoughts:

1) One of the treasures of my life has been the opportunity to forge new relationships with former romantic partners--not with all of them, but several. And in that process, I have twice gotten to have conversations in which we share *and agree* on a narrative of our splitting up that makes sense to both of us, in a process that I have found incredibly healing and positive.

2) Jason and I don't really have an engagement story. It was kind of a gradual, mutual process without any concrete moment of decision. While I'm very happy with how it worked out, that lack was painful for me for many years, which mostly just seemed to confuse and irritate Jason. Until one time we got to witness someone else's public proposal and on our way home Jason said that he finally understood

that what he had denied me was a story to tell and that he'd never before understood what that meant to me. His understanding released my anger and while it still makes me sad not to have that, it's a much softer, easier emotion to navigate now.

3) I got to see Wakanda Forever this past weekend and the thing that impressed me most was how Ryan Coogler managed to craft a collective mourning experience for millions of people to process our grief at the passing of Chadwick Boseman, in a respectful way, making his death part of the vast epic story of the MCU. I think it is a moment unprecedented in movie history and I have a great deal of respect and appreciation for how it was managed. It makes me think of other public narratives and how (and by whom) they are crafted--a rich vein to contemplate.

Thank you for inspiring these reflections and all the others that I'm sure will follow.

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Wow this is super helpful for a lot of things I’ve been thinking about! I can also see how narrativizing one’s own experience can also result in a split from someone else’s experience of the same events -- for example, I feel that my parents often have wildly different narratives for the same situations, and those narratives are reflective of what each of them values, feels insecure about, etc. Very cool post!

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Thanks for this insight, Ari — yes, absolutely! I sometimes think that whether or not an aversive experience coalesces into a trauma can depend on who is controlling the narrative, or who gets a hold of it first. With parents and children, this is obviously going to be the parents most of the time, simply due to the power dynamic inherent even in families where there isn't overt abuse. And as you note, this can happen between adults, too — each person's story about What Happened can get so embedded that the people are no longer even inhabiting a shared reality.

It's worth noting, and maybe I should have, here, that one of the things that trauma damages is the very ability to do this kind of narrativizing. It's much harder for a person who has been repeatedly gaslit to make sense of their own experience, to make consistent and coherent stories about who they are and what their life is like. It's a specific but very important component of trusting oneself, this ability to believe that one's choices are one's own, and that they're good choices. Unfortunately, this also goes the other way: some severely traumatized people become very sure of themselves indeed, but their ideas are harmful and wrongheaded. Rather than being unable to land on a coherent narrative, they crystallize around an incoherent one that makes them feel safe and in the right.

(You might have just spawned another essay; thanks for that!)

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