Once you allow yourself to identify with the people in a story, then you might begin to see yourself in that story even if on the surface it's far removed from your situation. This is what I try to tell my students: this is one great thing that literature can do - it can make us identify with situations and people far away.
Hoping they'd been inspired by the examples of Anne Frank and other teens who had turned negative experiences into something positive by writing about them, I handed out notebooks for my students to journal about their lives. There was some initial resistance. But then the stories poured out of them, full of anger and sadness.