On a long flight last week, I listened to a great podcast by the therapist, Marisa Peer. She spoke about the stories we tell ourselves. Exploring where we first picked these stories up from, who told them to us and, most importantly, are they even true? As a counsellor it’s my privilege to listen to my clients’ personal stories within our sessions together. And it’s empowering to watch as they write a new chapter, or recast themselves as a character worthy of the life they want.
Here comes the plot twist
Being aware of a the stories we tell ourselves, and reframing them, is an effective technique and a central pillar of Narrative Therapy. A type of therapy which encourages people who’ve experienced disappointment, to see their situation as separate from themselves. And also, as part of an ongoing, much longer, story. For example, if you’ve been fired it’s not the end of your career, but the start of a comeback. You get to find a job that’s more fulfilling, and better suited to the most authentic you.
Psychologist Daniel McAdam’s believes that the stories we tell about ourselves help shape our identities. He thinks that we can purposely compile a narrative about ourselves and our lives, which can give us a greater sense of control and destiny. For example, if we cast ourselves as a confident and capable character, and recall all the occasions we acted like this, then we’re more likely to feel empowered and bring about positive change.
This also explains why stories and films which highlight a transition, or focus on a hero’s journey are so popular. Just think of Gladiator, Working Girl or Life of Pi. They all show people stepping into their potential and taking control of their lives and the part they play within it.
The story of my life
So if you feel like you’re stuck in the pages of an outdated novel, then there’s help available. I can highly recommend Marisa Peer’s book, Tell Yourself a Better Lie. It focuses on the fixed stories we tell ourselves, and the power we have to change them. Discussing your life story with a therapist, can also be helpful. It will support you in understanding it, and empower you to create the future you want.