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I saw Philomena the other day. Like you, I enjoyed the depth of emotions presented in the movie. Such a fresh great story. If you haven’t seen this movie, it is highly recommended!

As I was watching it,  many questions were developing in my mind. Questions like these: Why did she decide to forgive the church? What contributed to her ability to forgive? Did her personal religious beliefs make the forgiveness possible to her? Did her son’s political positions influence her decision to forgive? What made her have a strong determination not to be like those who practice ‘anger’?  Does she see forgiveness a response/solution to conflicts?…

As i was overwhelmed by these questions, the placement of the journalist – Martin Sixsmith- became more visible to me. He wasn’t an average Joe; he was a journalist, a so-called expert investigating a story about a lost child.  Martin’s particular position got my attention; he was actively participating in unpacking and unfolding the untold well-kept story.

Questions were pouring to my consciousness; for instance, what is his role in re- storing Philomena’s experience? He was invited to help with investigation but there was no explicit or implicit permission given to him to take on the job alone; as It was very clear throughout the movie.  How did he restrain himself not to go beyond what Philomena asked?  If he was given permission to take on the leading role in retelling the story, could he add his own views, attitudes towards Church in this story? Could he influence the process of storytelling? What stopped him from not intruding and re-authoring Philomena’s story for Philomena?

I was amazed and pleased with the way he was positioned in this movie. He followed ethics that have been overlooked in our professional world! What he did could be called as ‘relational ethics’ in storytelling.

The way we, helping professionals , conduct ourselves, regulate our emotions, and hold on to our beliefs is critical to how stories are narrated and re-told. We, as a witness to people’s stories, need to be mindful of our responsibilities to those who consult with us. We need to be reminded of not adding our own resentment, anger or assumptions to their stories. We need to constantly re-pace ourselves to be in sync with our clients, not oppress their voices and not re-write their experiences of hardship and trauma. We need to be cognizant of putting pieces of stories into its own contexts, time and place and not evaluate them according to our today’s standards. These actions are what i call as ‘relational ethics’.

I believe having ‘relational ethics’ allows us to prevent conflicts from reshaping our life. ‘Relational Ethics’ allows us to be able to develop close deep understanding of the past events. It supports stories to remain fresh, effective, alive and influential throughout the human history!

Happy Possibilities!

Tahereh Barati