‘You must give birth to your images
They are the future waiting to be born’ – Rainer Maria Rilke
We all have a story. The stories we tell ourselves are shaped by our history, the struggles we faced, our failures and previous experiences. In their book ‘You are what you say’ Budd and Rothstein indicated that our judgments (such as ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘ I am not loveable’) are a function of our history of living and the standards for satisfaction that we’ve embodied. These judgments form part of our story (narrative) by which we then build our own identities, habits and our relationships with others. Our narrative forms a structure through which we interpret the world.
As protection is the most important function of the brain, we create habits and a spiral of thoughts to protect us. These thoughts often stem from fear of uncertainty or of what other people might be thinking. We work out who we are by the way others react towards us. So when we feel emotionally scared, the brain makes up a story about what is happening and how to stay safe. But sometimes these inner narratives of ‘I’ll never get ahead’ or ‘Life is unfair’ are unhelpful and bog us down.
The good news is that research indicates that we can challenge these stories and even change them. According to narrative therapists you can change the way you see the world by rewriting your story. You are meant to be in control of your story, not the other way around. We are all authors of our own lives. In creating a new story, that is aligned with your values, positive qualities and dreams you aspire to accomplish, you are creating a new reality at the same time.
To begin to foster change you first need to become aware of your current narrative. Pay attention to events that trigger it. Then actively choose to change your thinking when faced with these ‘triggers’. The task is to diminish the negative story and reinforce the positive story. In doing this you are training your brain and laying down new pathways to think and feel. Every choice gives you a chance to integrate the new story (such as ‘I am the hero or heroine of my story’ or ‘ I am an explorer in the adventure of life’) into your life. You can decide if you are going to remain stuck in your old story that is not serving you any more or are you going to create new habits or thoughts that can open up new possibilities.
We are each responsible for our own story. If you are holding anyone else accountable for your story, you are wasting your time. The psychiatrist, Carl Jung, once said, ‘I am not what has happened to me, but what I choose to become.’ What new way of being in the world, new story, can I invite you in?