Personal History & Making Choices – Part 2

Making Choices in Personal History Part 2: Contemplation  How do you decide to embark on a personal history? In our last blog, we began to explore the stages of decision-making, based on the work of James Prochaska and his colleagues in their ground-breaking research on lasting change and how it happens.  Today, we’re going to discuss the second stage of change.  Contemplation: “Hmmmm…”  In pre-contemplation, we introduced the idea of presenting information that was previously unknown: that there is such a thing as a personal history and that it will have lasting value in the lives of individuals, families, and communities. This is the “awareness” stage, a move from ignorance to knowledge. We encouraged the “educator,” to share information freely and then step back to allow it to percolate, rather than trying to rush decision-making and action.   Now suppose you haven’t talked with them for a couple of months. It’s perfectly fine to check in and ask them and ask if they’ve thought any more about it (being aware of the personality of the person you’re contacting). At this point, if they say either, “I’m thinking about what it might mean to do something like this, but I need to take some more time to make any decision, or, “I hadn’t thought about it but, now that you remind me, I’d like to think further about this. “This is the signal that he/she is in the “Contemplation” stage.  What are the indicators: 1.	Consideration of the possibilities without any action steps being  involved; Their Sitting on a fence where previously no fence existed; 2.	No immediate time frame being discussed. ‘I’m aware that this is something that has benefited others and might be of benefit to me, but I’m not ready to jump in just yet.”  How can you be helpful in this stage? 1.	Validate their decision-making process: “I understand that you want to think about this some more. That’s great. It’s a big step. You want to make sure that if you do this, it feels solid. “ 2.	Clarify and discuss: Help them understand the pros and cons of doing a personal history (e.g., the pro of having something for my siblings, great grandchildren, community; the con of how much it would cost, the time it would take, I don’t feel like I’d have anything to say, etc.) 3.	Illustrate the value of contemplation: Just carefully weighing the options will deepen their understanding of their process and help them achieve resolution.

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Making Choices & Personal History

1) name the steps in the change process; 2) relate them to the stages people go through in deciding to preserve life stories; and 3) give hints about how to recognize and work through each stage.   Stage One: Pre-Contemplation…”What Are You Talking About?”  Our culture is awash in storytelling and life preservation, from Story Corps -- to the Humans of New York Facebook page -- to the huge Roots Tech genealogy convention. Yet when someone’s son says, “Maybe we ought to tell the story of our family?” or a member of the local historical society says, “Maybe we ought to digitize those oral histories that are stored on crumbling paper in the back room…” a person may often say, “Our story is not very interesting,” or “We don’t have the money to digitize those records,” or “I don’t have the time.”  This is what is called the Pre-Contemplation Stage.  In the Pre-Contemplation Stage everyone can see that there is a need but the person with the need can’t see it, or doesn’t think it applies to them. How do you help people move out of this stage?  Raise Consciousness, Educate, Inform!  Since you are reading this blog, you are most likely not in pre-contemplation, but you probably know someone who is -- a family member, a business associate, a friend, maybe even the Board member of your local historical society.    Here are some steps you can take to raise awareness  DO:  1.	Cite facts: List the variety of benefits derived from preserving their life histories. (Most people in pre-contemplation have never even considered them as personally relevant.)  2.	Share the positive changes that came into your own life as a result of creating a personal history. You can also listen to our current podcast to hear how one Personal Historian’s life changed as a result of her family journey. …or watch an episode of Henry Louis Gates’ show, “Finding Your Roots.”  3.	Point out some of the consequences of failing to preserve lives, e.g., “I wish I knew what mom thought about my dad’s years in the CIA,” or “I’ll never be able to find out more about mom’s time as a missionary in Laos,” or “I think those are my great uncles, but grandma is dead and there’s no legend on the back of the photo.”  DON’T  1.	…try to move the person along too fast. You are not trying to get the person to act at this stage—they are not ready-- you are helping to raise their awareness.  2.	…be discouraged if it takes a while…even if you feel an urgency, the desire to proceed needs to come from within. If it doesn’t it won’t sustain and the project will never start or it will feel like it’s your project, instead of theirs.   Are you a professional personal historian? This may help you understand why we often experience such long lead times between the first contact and the initiation of a project. Do you know someone who would benefit from doing a Personal History? Learning the stages involved in choosing and changing may provide insight into the complexity of the process.   Look around you this week. How many people do you see who are still in the pre-contemplation stage of doing a personal history? Please share what you discover with us.  Next Week: Stage 2: Contemplation: “Hmmm….”

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Life Preservers Podcast: Episode 1 – An Interview with Marcia Orland

Welcome to  the first episode of our new podcast! Each episode of Life Preservers: A Personal History Podcast  will feature interviews designed to help you think about personal history–what it is, how to do it, why to do it, and how personal histories create a correspondence with the future. In addition to the interviews, we’ll point you in the direction of blogs, books, and videos, tips and tricks that will guide you on the journey of creating and preserving your legacy and the legacies of people you love.

 

Many thanks to our first interview subject, the talented and adventurous Marcia Orland, for taking the time to tell us about her work and her path to preserving her own family history. Marcia is a professional personal video historian and owner of Afterglow Media based in Carpenteria, CA.

CLICK to hear Episode 1

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Stumbling into Paradise: The Sacred Space

Stumbling Into Paradise A Personal History Short By Pam Pacelli Cooper President, Verissima Productions  I don’t love freeways. And we were tired after a month of exacting work. So I asked Rob, my husband and partner, if we could exit the California 101 and travel on a smaller, “blue” highway near Summerland.  We pulled off and drove for a few miles before we saw what looked like the lot for an old gas station or shack, but instead of an entrance to a 711 we saw two gorgeous Indian statues. We had a mission and almost kept driving, but Rob said, “Did you see what I saw back there? Let’s go back and look.”  I had seen it, but had been too schedule-bound to suggest we stop.  Thanks to him, we stumbled into Paradise.  The lovely entryway was only the beginning of our journey into a world of calm and healing just off the highway. The Sacred Space is deceptively small from the outside, but, once you enter, you come upon a warren of rooms, all tastefully furnished with artifacts from the East—jewelry, Buddhas, books, cards, and a dazzling array of minerals. The staff immediately offers water or tea. There is no pressure to buy and no overt religious message other than the message to relax and enjoy.  We meandered through the many rooms, admiring the beauty and thinking we were done. Then, we looked through a doorway and found the gardens. Completely hidden from the road are two separate sets of gardens, with private and elegant places to sit and relax tucked away at several different levels, a pond, a small stream, miniature bridges and more statues. It is as if you were transported to a forest refuge in Thailand or India.  After two hours we left, refreshed and grateful.  I know, I know, some people have said, “Oh, it’s so California,” meaning that comment not entirely kindly. But…it is more than that. It was a journey into other lands and another mindset, and all because we decided to stop and look inside.  Question:  What special places have you discovered that have brought you into another, expanded sense of your world?  Tip: If you’re anything like me, and love the side roads, you owe it to yourself to read William Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways a classic of slow travel.   See more about the Sacred Space including the story behind it: http://www.thesacredspace.com **Interested in reading Blue Highways? CLICK HERE to get a copy.

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Creating a Correspondence with the Future: A Monthly Newsletter

We’re excited to announce the launch of a monthly e-newsletter, beginning in April. We’d love to have you join us and subscribe. Just CLICK HERE to be put on our mailing list! Want to know more? Watch this quick iPhone video we shot on location for an introduction to what will be contained in each issue.

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Orchids East and West: A Personal History Short Story

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“Hamilton” the Musical makes History be Here and Now!

Who Lives? Who Dies? Who Tells Your Story?*
“Hamilton,” a Personal History
By Pam Pacelli Cooper
President, Verissima Productions
HamiltonBlog1d Click to listen to “Non-Stop” from Hamilton HamiltonBlog2d Click to listen to “Who Tells Your Story” from Hamilton HamiltonBlog3e

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12 Days & 12 Ways to Connect this Christmas

Twelve Ways to Connect with Family this Christmas
By Pam Pacelli Cooper
President, Verissima Productions

 

A few weeks ago, I read a compelling article in The New York Times by Tony Schwartz Titled, “Addiction to Distraction,” it pulled me up short about my own constant presence on the Internet. The last few words of the article were incredibly jarring:

 

I was sitting in a restaurant with my family when a man in his early 40s came in and sat down with his daughter, perhaps 4 or 5 years old and adorable. Almost immediately, the man turned his attention to his phone. Meanwhile, his daughter was a whirlwind of energy and restlessness, standing up on her seat, walking around the table, waving and making faces to get her father’s attention. Except for brief moments, she didn’t succeed and after a while, she glumly gave up. The silence felt deafening.

 

When I read this I was reminded of the famous “Still Face” experiment in the world of developmental psychology. In this experiment, a mother is asked to play with her baby in a fully engaged way. Then she is asked to turn away from the baby and when she faces the baby again, to exhibit a “still face” or stone face. All babies follow the same pattern when presented with this face: at first they coo and gurgle and try to “love up” their mothers; then they get angry and protest, crying and yelling and waving their arms; then they turn away and give up (the “glum” little girl in the article). If you want to see what it looks like, click here to see a video of the experiment. Once you see it you’ll always remember.

 

And then I wondered, how many “still faces” we are showing to our children, our loved ones, our friends and our families when we are constantly looking at our phones or computers? I thought about how the holidays provide a special opportunity to take a break from this pattern. Here are 12 suggestions for a holiday of connecting. They cost little or nothing, but their value can be enormous. As always, I’d love to hear your suggestions for more ways to “disconnect” in the name of person-to-person connection this season in the comments.

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#TheGreatListen

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What’s the story?

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