BioGraffs is a process of visual storytelling - a powerful way to share your perspective, for greater understanding and connection.
Why storytelling? Our brains evolved to explain our reality by creating stories out of the raw input of our senses. Sometimes it can help to take a closer look at the stories in our heads. BioGraffs is much more than a story game - it's a way to make a visual narrative of something going on in your life or in your mind.
Our brains can be complex places with multiple threads and connections, even contradictions, on any one topic. BioGraffs is a way to slow down and organize your thinking, so you can more effectively share your perspective.
Working though something with BioGraffs:
Externalizes an internal story. Often, things that bounce around in your head for a long time look completely different when you get them outside yourself and look at them in a new way
Slows down thinking. The mind can be a chaotic place, jumping from idea to idea; justifying, backtracking, rationalizing. The BioGraffs method helps untangle our internal stories and regard each strand separately.
Distances us from language. Once you define the cubes, you are done with words. You can explore the ideas more abstractly
Harnesses metaphor. People making a BioGraff naturally reach for spatial metaphors as they lay out the cubes and this adds meaning and gets at more emotional connections
Is inclusive of alternate communication styles. For people that are less verbal, BioGraffs can be a helpful way to externalize their thoughts and feelings
Creates space. In the sharing portion of the BioGraffs experience, the structure of storytelling and the visual aid add support to the people who tend to talk less in a conversation and keeps the amount of "floor time" more even.
About the BioGraffs Method
BioGraffs was designed in collaboration with psychotherapists to aid people in self-awareness and connection.
Maybe your therapist recommended it to you, for homework. Or maybe you came across it and thought it would be useful for your own inner journey, solo. Or maybe you want to use it with a friend or partner for more understanding and connection. You are in charge of where this takes you. The basic exercise is extremely flexible and depends entirely on what YOU want to explore.
Here are some things that the BioGraff Method can help you with.
Relationships with partners
Communicating about difficult topics
Anxiety or Depression
Life or Career Goals
End of Life
Step 1 - Choosing a Story
A BioGraff is a story game where you create a visual narrative of something going on in your life or something important to you. It’s kind of like storytelling. Each BioGraff is a little story about you. The first step is to think about what story you want to tell - it helps to think of it like a title for your story. What’s on your mind? What’s bothering you lately?
With a BioGraffs set you get exclusive access to an online interactive selection tool of story titles that helps you zero in on what you want to explore.
Are you in conflict with another person? Do you want to improve the way you relate to someone in your life? Do you need to think through what’s important to you? Are you depressed, anxious, worried? Are you struggling with something in the past - a loss or trauma? Are you trying to make a big change? Making a BioGraff can help you get a new perspective.
Step 2 - Story Elements
Once you have a title, you'll think about what are the parts of the story you want to tell. You'll make a list of up to ten things - they may be thoughts, feelings, events, actions, things other people do, sensations, objects - anything that is a part of your story. You'll write them down on a piece of paper and assign each a colored cube. This is your story key.
When we have a complicated situation in life, or something bothering us, we don't usually think about it in parts. It can be a confusing swirl of thoughts in our heads - building the story key helps you unravel that big mental tangle.
Step 3 - Choosing a Story Style
Once you’ve decided on the story you want to tell visually, given it a title, and thought about the parts of the story, it's time to think about how to tell it. Oral stories can be told a lot of different ways, and so can visual stories.
How do you tell a story with little squares? We asked over a 1000 people to tell a story about themselves using colored cubes. Then we analyzed how they did that. What we found was that people approach this in only a handful of different ways. We call these "Storyboard Styles" and the BioGraffs set includes 8 Storyboard Style cards to inspire you, and guide you, as you tell your own story.
Some stories look like a timeline, some are more like a bar graph. You can use the tiles to compare things, like "what I want" vs "what I get"
Or some stories could be more abstract, using spatial metaphors to communicate meaning about the complex ideas you want to express. What's a spatial metaphor? They are so common in language that we barely even notice they are metaphors. If you are talking about something abstract, like a feeling, and you say it is buried, overarching, surrounding, above, underlying, branching out of, encircling, enclosing, hiding, pressing down on, breaking out of of, pushing out, blocking, or hiding some other abstract thing - you are using a spatial metaphor.
So the BioGraff tiles can express complex concepts in their relationship to other tiles. People do this very instinctually as they manipulate their BioGraff pieces.
Sharing Your BioGraff
We suggest people take a picture of their BioGraff when they are done. They may refer back to it. Or they may want to share it with another person. Many people have brought their BioGraffs to their therapist or life coach to talk about it in detail.
Check out "Sharing and Talking" for things to do with your BioGraff to increase connection and understanding.
Here's founder Jen Beman, explaining more
You create almost like a script of talking points of beliefs, values, so that you can use that information to represent yourself authentically and genuinely to your partner, to your therapist, to your loved ones to your family.
-- Joey Salvatore, LCPC
A BioGraffs workshop
The BioGraffs Story
Hi, I'm Jennifer Beman, the founder and designer of BioGraffs.
BioGraffs is based on my perspective as a documentary editor. I've spent 30 years developing an understanding of storytelling, and the different ways stories can unfold based on different perspectives in a documentary.
I believe the process of editing a movie is a powerful metaphor for the internal storytelling that the human brain uses to make sense of the world. As an editor, I take footage from a film shoot and shape it into a good and compelling story, similar to how people take the raw “footage” of their lives and they shape it into the story of their identity, who they are and what they think is going on in their world.
We're all making all these little stories in our heads... creating them all the time. Sometimes they're good stories, and sometimes they aren’t, but still they keep streaming over and over on an internal loop.
BioGraffs is a way to help look at your internal stories as an audience instead of a director. You see them outside yourself. You might also choose to re-edit your internal stories using the same "footage" but a new perspective. Then you can share your story in a focused way, for better connections with others.
This idea has been brewing slowly over the course of my editing career.
In 2016 I started a monthly women's discussion group because I was interested in helping women share their stories about their relationships and their sexual experiences. I invented an activity for that group using cubes to stand for sexual values. It was so successful in my discussion group that I turned it into an interactive art installation called the Graphic Sex Project to help people tell their sexual stories, de-shame talking about sex, and open up new conversations about preferences. At multiple events across the country, I asked people to make a "graph" of a good sexual experience using colored cubes. The installations were a huge success. People could make a graph, or just browse the collection of graphs other people had made at previous installations.
What I discovered was that this quirky way of looking at sexuality was a uniquely powerful way for a person to get a new perspective on their desires, and the graphs they created were a great conversation opener with a partner, sparking deep discussion on a typically difficult topic.
I soon realized that this was actually a very helpful way to think about any difficult topic, and that it could be a useful tool for therapists to share with their clients. I sought input from psychotherapists and counselors on how to make this tool work for people in clinical settings.
In 2022, I teamed up with ACT therapist Joey Salvatore , and together we are working to make this valuable tool more widely available to therapists, counselors, coaches, and educators.