Memoir Writing Tip: The Brain and Relationships

by Matilda Butler on November 16, 2011

catnav-alchemy-activePost #28 – Memoir and Fiction, Writing Alchemy – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

What Brain Research Teaches Us About Love and Relationships

Kendra drove to Oregon from Maine after our presentation at the Association of Personal Historians. We’ve been finishing a number of projects as well as making plans for new articles and memoir writing tips for more effective family and personal storytelling. One of our projects is the completion of Writing Alchemy: Turning Words into Gold. As we edit the final pages, we realize there is so much more than we want to share with you that just won’t fit in the book. Besides, we both continue to read and will find nuggets that we’d like to share.

So, although our book isn’t yet available, we will post bits and pieces that you’ll find relevant to your memoir writing. You won’t have our system in front of you, but some of these nuggets just may spark insight while others are intended to help with specific writing tips to improve your craft of memoir writing. You may want to use some of our tips as journaling prompts. Others you may use as a day’s writing starter — a 10 minute write session before moving on to work on your memoir.

Today’s Writing Insight

I’ve been reading Dr. Fran Cohen Praver’s book, The New Science of Love: How Understanding Your Brain’s Wiring Can Help Rekindle Your Relationship, and find there are many sections that could help memoir writers better understand their family relationships. In a future post, I’ll write about how our mirror neurons — tiny brain cells — connect us with others and lead to emotional scripts that influence us year after year.

storytelling, memoir writing, family memoir, siblings and memoir, memoir, writing tipsBut today, I want to focus on an interesting point that Praver makes about all members of the family. She reminds us that while we often think about the influence of our parents on our lives our siblings were also powerful influencers. Specifically, the way we interacted with our sisters and/or brothers created scripts for relationships that we take with us into our adult lives — that we probably are using even today with others, not just with our siblings. Here’s what she writes:

“Was the relationship among siblings in our childhood home loving or hostile? What feelings did those relationships prompt in you? Trace how the old feelings triggered emotional scripts…

“If your childhood memory is one of loving sibling relationships, chances are that you bring love to your intimate relationship. How about hostility permeating your sibling relationships? Because we’re all unique, the script you wrote back then may have followed any number of different story lines: fighting back ferociously, preempting hostility with attacks, caving in, or ducking the attacks. Do any of these ring a bell? Do they remind you of other responses?” – p. 85

Writing Tip

1. Think back to a specific scene from your childhood when you were with one or more of your siblings. How did you interact? Was this typical?

2. Write down what each of you said during this scene. Then be analytical? In general, was this a fun and loving relationship? Was there hurt and emotional pain? Did you feel superior or inferior?

3. What type of relationship do you have today with your sibling(s)? Does it mirror the childhood feelings?

4. Do you continue to use any of the emotional script that you wrote back when you were a child? Do you act out that script with others in your family?

5. Thinking through these emotions and the actions that follow may give you new insights into your adult relationships.

storytelling, memoir, memoir writing











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