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Jackie Sheridan: Narrative Therapy

Jackie Sheridan on Sprinting To Success Podcast

 

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Jackie’s Bio

As a resilience coach, I use my Narrative Therapy training to assist people in developing skills to successfully recover from adversity and change.

“I think the one thing I’d love for people to know, is that really, the resources in your life, your faith, your friends, your health, the interests that you have that make you unique in this world. That is your gift. It’s your presence. When you walk in a room, you can light it up, or you can just bring it a heavy presence into it and it’s your choice. And you get to choose how you want to live it. And I’d love to encourage you to choose to love it well.” -Jackie Sheridan

 

Contact Jackie: 

PS. It’s important to disclose that many of the links on the esmielawrence.com website are affiliate links. Which means that if you choose to make a purchase that I will earn a small commission. Which allows me to continue hosting the blog and website. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that the commission does not affect which items are listed on my website. Thank you for your support. Show notes by Esmie Lawrence Audio production by Brian Calkins Podcast Mechanic

Show notes:

Esmie Lawrence:
Welcome. This episode is sponsored by my Co-author Course. I am looking for 10 to 16 writers for the book, step Into Your Power. You write your story, or I will interview you and turn your interview into your story. Use your story, only 4,000 words, to inspire others, speak on stage, do workshops or become an authority. Contact Esmie today at esmielawrence.com. And now my guest is a resilient coach. She uses narrative therapy training to assist people in developing skills to successfully recover from adversity and change. Welcome, Jackie Sheridan.

Esmie Lawrence:
Jackie, thank you so much for agreeing to talk with us on Sprinting to Success Podcast. Welcome.

J. Sheridan:
Hi, Esmie. Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited for our time today.

Esmie Lawrence:
Oh, so am I. So I hear an accent. Where are you from?

J. Sheridan:
from originally from South Africa. I was born in Zimbabwe, but raised in South Africa.

Esmie Lawrence:
Oh, neat. Okay. Okay. You know, later on we can talk about South Africa. I would love to hear about that. Okay. So what I would like to ask you is to go back to some of the struggles you’ve had as a child.

J. Sheridan:
So being an immigrant child was really difficult. My family, moved from Zimbabwe to a very small, from the city actually, to a small farming community that spoke a predominantly Afrikaans language, and it was a huge adjustment. I didn’t fit in with the English kids, or with the Afrikaans kids. And it was a lot of difficulty of navigating, trying to get on and off the school bus without speaking the language. Yeah, it was quite a challenging time.

Esmie Lawrence:
So then did you learn to speak the language, eventually?

J. Sheridan:
I’m completely fluent. I read, write, and speak it.

Esmie Lawrence:
Oh, that is so good. So that’s a success as a child. Now, as a teenager, what were some of the challenges you had in your life?

J. Sheridan:
I had a car accident when I was 17 years old, with a drunk driver. And then when I was 19 I lost my best friend in a car accident to a drunk driver. So those were pretty, pretty big changes in my life. Those events.

Esmie Lawrence:
Right. So you lost your best friend. I mean, so how did that affect your life?

J. Sheridan:
I was really young, and it was very, very painful. We spoke every single day on the phone. We were just best friends. And it was quite an adjustment to go and just not… To do life without them being there. But I have to say that it’s, in a way, it’s been one of the best experiences in my life because I had to then reconcile the fact, because I tried to push all my friends away because I didn’t… It hurt so much. I was like, if I lose you had it’ll hurt so much more. And then I realized that you can’t go through life pushing people away in the fear that you’re going to lose them. You need to just love them while you can. And so it’s helped me to really embrace friendships with people too. Whether I’m going to know you for six months, or six years, or 16,000 years, I want to try and be a great friend to you when I can.

Esmie Lawrence:
Right. And you know what? That’s really awesome, you say that Jackie. Because I mean we’re all going to die. And so you can’t push people away because you’re afraid they’re going to die. And so it’s embrace it and enjoy them while they’re still alive.

J. Sheridan:
Yes, absolutely.

Esmie Lawrence:
I love that. So now go on. So we’ll just move forward to challenges you’ve had as an adult.

J. Sheridan:
I think that the biggest challenge is being an adult.

Esmie Lawrence:
Yeah, that’s right. Do we ever grow up?

J. Sheridan:
I think it’s just being an adult. Knowing that there’s so much responsibilities, but I mean with the bad comes the good. I can’t say that I… There’s being severe trauma, and that I do know that’s the last few years of raising my teenage daughters, who have mental illness, and that was really challenging. I never expected it to be as difficult as as it was. But we got through it, we survived and now we’re rebuilding those relationships.

Esmie Lawrence:
Right. So can you tell us the challenges of raising a child with mental health issues?

J. Sheridan:
I can’t speak for everybody’s experience, because I do have to acknowledge that my training in Narrative Therapy really helped me get through it. I could understand the dynamics of the mental illness, but I could also grasp… I had tools in my toolbox that helped me build resilience. Long before I actually got to that. So when I was in the midst of it, and dealing with the crisis after crisis situation that we went through, I didn’t fall apart. I was able to sort of just keep bouncing back, and keep going on with normal life as best as I could, under the situation.

Esmie Lawrence:
When did you find out that your daughter had mental health issues?

J. Sheridan:
She started in high school, so it was bad five or six months into our high school career. That she started really just struggling with everything, and it just sort of spiraled out of control from there.

Esmie Lawrence:
So what do you mean spiral out of control? Explain. Like expand on that.

J. Sheridan:
I would say it started off as just depression, and then the depression became suicide attempts. Suicide attempts became drug use because she just wanted to numb all the pain. She just didn’t know how to cope with everything and so it just sort of really got out of control in that sense.

Esmie Lawrence:
And so [inaudible 00:07:19] those hardship, where did you find resilience? Like how did you end up becoming resilient and did it start off right away? Or did you have to learn, or grow into it.

J. Sheridan:
I think that I naturally have resilience. I think that being an immigrant as a kid allowed me to have that life experience, that nothing is lasting. Everything can be really bad, but it can get really good again afterwards. And so having that mindset going into it, I keep thinking we’ll get through this. It’ll just be another year or so. And it ended up lasting for five years, but… I think the hope that I knew it was going to get better. I’m also taking care of myself using my resilience skills, being aware of my toolbox. Resources like my friends, my faith, healthy living, my work. There was so many other aspects to my life. That’s this mental illness in our home was not the dominant story.

Esmie Lawrence:
Right now how did your faith help build resilience?

J. Sheridan:
I think it starts with daily small habits of learning to respond to little situations in life rather than a big crisis situation. When we’re sitting in traffic and somebody cuts us off, we have a choice. We can choose whether we want to react, or whether we want to respond. And every time we choose to respond, in the way that we speak, in the way that we act just in everyday situations, it gives us the power that when we’re in a crisis situation, we can just take a deep breath and then choose to respond rather than react.

Esmie Lawrence:
Oh, that is actually some nuggets you’re dropping on our audience. Do they instead of being reactive, choose how you’re going to respond. Ladies and gentlemen, choose how you’re going to respond in the small things. Because when the crisis comes along, it’ll become almost automatic. Is that correct Jackie?

J. Sheridan:
Yes, absolutely.

Esmie Lawrence:
All right. So tell us, so what is your passion, now?

J. Sheridan:
So, through all of this, I realized that so many people don’t have resilience skills. So many people like dealing with so much in life and they just feel overwhelmed. They feel like they can’t make a choice, that they don’t have any choices to them because everything in life is just such a mace around them. And one of the things that I have learnt as a narrative therapist coach, is that the problem is actually really small. And when we can start to get our perspective in order, we can turn our problems into opportunities for growth.

J. Sheridan:
And so that’s where my passion comes from. Is that I love to help people understand that base strengths, the inner strengths that they have, these resources that they have in their friendships, their work, their interests, their hobbies, the things that they love doing, that enriched their mind so much bigger than that little problem. And one of the base questions I love asking people is, “Is this problem always evident in your life?” So do you have this problem 24/7, seven days a week? Can you see this problem every hour of every day? And normally you see this little spark going off in their mind, as they go, “No, this problem is not always there. It’s not there when I’m at work, it’s not there when I’m at home, it’s not there when I’m doing this with my friend.” Once we realized that the problem doesn’t have complete control, then you can start from a new perspective.

Esmie Lawrence:
Right. So yeah. So then it’s funny because as you said that time, the problem… Is when you have problems with your life, is it always there? And of course not. Cause you know what life is a journey, and we all know that. And some days it’s up, and some days it’s down. And so then you put your problems into perspective, and if we can look at it that way, is that what narrative therapy, is that what that is?

J. Sheridan:
So the thing is, is that what we do is we help people to re author their story, to tell the story that they want. So that they have the bigger story than the problem in their life.

Esmie Lawrence:
And how would you get people to re author their story?

J. Sheridan:
So it’s quite a… It’s hard to explain it in theory. It’s a… Because it’s a practical thing. So you are the author of your own story. You know your story the best and I couldn’t tell you your story. So I know that you’re a mother of three, you’re a Canadian Olympic sprint star who has a silver medal. These are things I know about you. But that’s not your story, because your story is so much bigger than that. I don’t know anything about what you like, what you dislike. I don’t know the things that make you afraid. I don’t know if you sleep well at night. I know nothing about your life, your habits and that. You know that story and you know the stories within each of those stories. So what are we try and do, is we help people understand that their stories… We help them identify when the problem first came into their lives, and then we start to explore all the other stories of the life.

J. Sheridan:
So your, to use a really horrible example, but one of that’s probably the best. Is people having… In normal everyday language people would say you’re an alcoholic. I narrative therapy, we say that you’re a person with a negative relationship to alcohol. So what we do is we help you under… We’d ask you, when do you first notice that your relationship with alcohol started becoming a problem? When it started turning negative. And then we just understand the dynamics of it so that we know that it wasn’t always present. It had a starting point, and because it has a starting point, we can give it an ending point. We can change that relationship.

J. Sheridan:
And we also then explore, so before this alcohol became a negative relationship in your life, can you tell me about the positive relationships that you had previous to that? And you can start talking about, “Oh, I really loved writing every day. I really enjoyed interacting with my friends, going shopping with my girlfriends, having lunch with my family”. You can share all these aspects of your life that empowered you. And once you can can go back and remember a time when you felt empowered, it allows you then to start writing the story of how you want to be empowered in the future without the presence of… And you can’t without the presence of alcohol because you’re just going to change that relationship. But without that relationship being a dominant relationship in your life.

Esmie Lawrence:
Right. Right. So you’re the author of your story, and you can rewrite it anytime you want.

J. Sheridan:
Yeah.

Esmie Lawrence:
So if somebody comes to you, and they have limiting beliefs, they have no confidence, they don’t believe in themselves. What the first, second, third step? What would you do with them?

J. Sheridan:
I would ask them, what’s one thing that you do well, just one thing. Even if it’s cooking dinner well every single night. If it’s getting out of bed, and making your bed every day, and you do that well, that’s one thing you do well. And so build on that. What’s one other thing that you do well and once you start to focus on just one or two things that you do very well, no matter how simple they are. If you’re doing them every single day, it tells me that there’s something in you that is good. That’s doing well. And you can build confidence from that.

J. Sheridan:
So what is it that allows you to get up every day and make your bed well? And how can you use that in other aspects of your life? And then to just slowly transform that story, a little bit every single day. And I think that the key is not to try and have a big picture, but to have a small picture that keeps getting, I like to say colored in. That you just color in those little areas a little more each day until you get a beautiful big collage that you want your life to reflect.

Esmie Lawrence:
Right. So then they start with a little things, and then color in something positive, and then just get a bigger and bigger and bigger. Because if you start looking for what’s your passion? What do you love to do in life? They’ll like, “I have nothing”. I have a friend that I said, “What do you like to do?” I don’t like to do anything. Like nothing. I said, “Well you must be passionate about something?” And she says, “No, I’m not passionate about anything”. So when people come to you and they have no desire, they have lost the zest for life, what do you do?

J. Sheridan:
I think passion can be quite a hot and cold thing. Exactly as you said. And so, and in narrative terms, we wouldn’t ask that. We rather ask that, what are the things that that bring joy into your life? So what is something that you enjoy doing? And very often if people have been through severe depression, there’s very little that they enjoy. But there will be days where the depression is not overwhelming for them. And so if you can say to them, “On a day when you’re not feeling overwhelmed by depression, or depression is not a dominant story in your day, what are the things that you would like to do?” And it can be something simple like going for a walk outside, having a cup of coffee with a friend, reading a book. And just introducing just small little pleasures into people’s life.

J. Sheridan:
And as they have more of those little experiences, they will want to have more of those experiences. And again it’s about taking small steps rather than these big things. Like are you going to change the world? Everyone’s going to run away. But if you can say, “What’s one thing you really enjoy doing?” So I came out of ministry feeding very tired, and just exhausted dealing with my family and dealing with the demands of ministry.

J. Sheridan:
And I sat with a coach and he said to me, what’s one place that you enjoy being? And I said, “The library.” And he’s like, “The library?” I said, “Ever since I was a teenager, if I need to get away from everything, I go hide in the library.” And so he said, “Why don’t you go and take a part time job in the library?” And I did. And so for the past year I’ve been working part time in the library, and it’s been such a happy place for me. And it’s been a place where I could actually find passions again because being around books just inspires me. And it inspires me to try new things and learn new things. And so slowly the passion has come back because of that. So my advice is take something that you enjoy or a place that you enjoy being in and just try and find a way to incorporate it in your daily life.

Esmie Lawrence:
Right. And the library, that would be great, because surrounded by all those books, I would be in heaven. Because I love books. Right. So you said you were in the ministry, so explain a little bit more. How long were you in the ministry for, and why was it challenging?

J. Sheridan:
So I, in my early twenties I started volunteering in a church and just always been involved in mentoring people, in leadership development, in growing people in these spiritual journeys. Just always been a passion of mine. And then eventually God called me into full time ministry and I kind of went, “No, I don’t know. This is not… I’m not quite the minister type. I’m a little rough around the edges.” And he said, no, I think you’re the right person. So when I said yes and we worked… I was talking to my team at my Pastor’s, back in South Africa. We were starting the process, and at the same time a paperwork for Canada came through. So we stopped that and when I arrived in Canada, I just made this decision. God, if I’m meant to be in full time ministry, just create a position. And he did. And four months of us being in Canada, I stepped into a full time ministry position, and I was there for five years. And during that time I got my studies behind me. My theological studies. And then we moved to Markham.

J. Sheridan:
I finished up a year more studies. I did some advanced courses that I wanted to take at Toronto University. And then I stepped into another ministry role, which… It was just a little bit too much for me, given my demands. The ministry role that I’d had previously, I did most of it from home. And this was being in the office from nine in the morning until five. Being on call on Saturdays and Sundays. And it was just a lot for me. Trying to juggle my family’s mental illness, and be a mom and, and still be a pastor.

Esmie Lawrence:
Right. So you’re being pulled in many different directions.

J. Sheridan:
Yes.

Esmie Lawrence:
Right. My sister and my brother-in-law, they’re both pastors and I see how they give so much.

J. Sheridan:
Yeah.

Esmie Lawrence:
You know, they give to their family, give to the ministry, and so sometimes I go and, “Well, who’s going to fill their cup?” Because they’re giving so much. Do you find the same way where you’re giving so much and sometimes they end up, you know, have nothing to give?

J. Sheridan:
You know, I’ll be honest with you that, up until this last position. I had never found that I’ve got very good boundaries. I stepped into a church where the boundaries were not very clear. I struggled to keep those boundaries in place, and the more I tried to, I found that it was just a my own personal struggle. I’m not assertive enough sometimes in that role. With the large team. It had been the first time that I’d been with so many pastors on our… I think there was 16 pastas on our pastoral team. Just a high demand, big, large congregation. And I thought that I was up for the challenges, but then I realized I just… If I had probably spent more time at home, and got my boundaries in place on my personal front, I probably would’ve handled the demands of ministry better.

J. Sheridan:
My previous congregation, I was very fortunate in that people… As much as I gave, people gave back to me. And so I, although it took a lot out of me, I’d also like I was continually being fed from one lot of people, while other people drained me. And I had very good boundaries in place. I was able to negotiate with the church, the hours that I worked, and the conditions that I worked. And so I worked really hard, but I also worked really well, if that makes sense. And so I, you know, it’s difficult. I think when I stepped into this role, people kept saying to me how do we make this better for you? And it was just a learning curve. Of trying to, sometimes you thrive in some environments, and sometimes you just don’t thrive.

J. Sheridan:
And it wasn’t that the environment was bad, it just that it was the wrong environment for me, dealing with my family’s issues. When you go and you leave home at 8:30 in the morning or nine o’clock in the morning to get to church for meetings, and then it’s a full day. And then you’ve got ministry youth groups in the evening. And you walk home, again home at 10:30 at night, and then you’re dealing with ambulances and sitting in the hospital overnight. You know that those kind of things drain you. And it’s not the church, it’s not the people in the church. It’s not the work that you’re doing, it’s just everything, all lumped together, that kind of. It’s a lot.

Esmie Lawrence:
So how do you decrease stress in your life when all these things together, and you have to deal with it? So how do you decreased stress so that you can actually deal with all these issues?

J. Sheridan:
So I am… My background in South Africa is Methodist. I’m from the Methodist Church, and the Methodists are very interdiscipline loving. And it works for me. I think that’s why I’m a good Methodist. I get up every morning, first thing in the morning, I spend time with God. And that is my energy [inaudible 00:24:17] where I plug in. It’s where I’m able to share everything that’s going on in my life. It’s where I can deal with life honestly and openly. Be as weak as I need to be. I get all the strength that I need for the day. Find a peace that I need. Yeah. So that’s my go to in life. And reading books as well. It’s my escape. When life gets a bit much, then I have to be honest that I tend to escape into fantasy world, and enjoy just being elsewhere for a little while.

Esmie Lawrence:
Right. You know? And I really believe that in your life you’ve got to put God first. Because without God, we’re nothing. You know? So when you wake up in the morning, you got to be thankful, and pray for guidance. I always say to God, help me to be… Give me wisdom. Because I mean… And lead my path. Because so many times I will go off the path and I get lost. And I said like, God, help me get back on the path. How did I end up here? So I really believe that God has to be first, and number one in your life. Because he guides. Allow him to guide you and protect you, and I’m glad you said that. You wake up in the morning and you spend time with God.

J. Sheridan:
Yeah, yeah. And you need prayer. You need your Bible, you need other people in fellowship with you as well. So my best friend is fantastic. Her and I send scripture verses to each other. And it’s funny. Like she’ll send something to me, and it’s just echoes what I’d read in scripture that morning on my own. And I just know it’s God’s saying yes, keep going or keep hanging in there.

Esmie Lawrence:
That’s right. Keep hanging in there. Keep going. Because I will find a way for you. It will all work out. So I would like you for… For you to, with all the knowledge and wisdom that you have, and the resiliency that you have now, go back and talk to your young self. What words of wisdom would you tell your young self so she can believe in herself?

J. Sheridan:
I think I’ve always kind of believed in myself. I don’t… I think I’ve always kind of believed in myself, because of my faith. I think I was 10 or 11 years old when I first prayed for somebody else to come into faith at a camp. I always been what they call a wise old soul. Jesus has been my best friend. And so for me too, I would just keep saying continue that friendship with Jesus. He is your best friend. He’s the most consistent thing that’s going to be in your lif., You can lose everything, but you can’t lose him. So I think that’s what I would just say to myself. What I’ve always said to myself is, Jesus is your best friend and he’s never going to leave you.

Esmie Lawrence:
Right. Like have a little talk. The song says, have a little talk with Jesus. Tell him all about your troubles. So you’ve been doing that from your little, all the way up till this point in your life?

J. Sheridan:
Yup.

Esmie Lawrence:
So what would you like to share with our audience today?

J. Sheridan:
I think the one thing I’d love for people to know, is that really, the resources in your life, your faith, your friends, your health, the interests that you have that make you unique in this world. That is your gift. It’s your presence. When you walk in a room, you can light it up, or you can just bring it a heavy presence into it and it’s your choice. And you get to choose how you want to live it. And I’d love to encourage you to choose to love it well. Love it the way you were mean to love it. When you were a toddler, I’m pretty sure your parents fussed and fretted over whether you were going to walk and talk, and eat your veggies, and grow up to be strong. And yet you did everything. I mean, you even learned the alphabet, which your parents thought would be impossible. And you did it in your own way, and in your own time. And just to be aware of that. That you’re going to love life in your own way, and in your own time. And enjoy it.

Esmie Lawrence:
Jackie, I love that light up the room because we are… We came here to be great. And God wants us to step into our destiny, and step into our power and share our life with the world. And just be happy and joyful. So ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us today, and sprinting to success with Jackie. And you can learn more about Jackie on esmielawrence.com

J. Sheridan:
Esmie, thank you so much for having me here on sprinting to success. This has been so great. This is Jackie from Sheridan Strategy, and we’re going to sprint you to success.

Esmie Lawrence:
Yay. Thank you Jackie. I love that. Awesome.

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