Unlearning our personal stories is vital in breaking through old patterns and unlocking true joy.
Let me explain.
Unlearning personal stories
One of the questions I often ask clients I work with is “what is the story here?” As you might imagine, this is often met with a confused stare (which I’m not so surprised by). When I think about the idea of a personal “story” I think about the scripts that play in our heads and what they tell us about who we are. It’s how we make meaning of your life and world around us. In large part, our stories are defined by our previous experiences and our identities. We base the stories on our roles in life too. A lot of times those same stories are heavily influenced by how others see us (What do others see me as? What’s the feedback I’ve gotten before?).
A big part of the therapy process is about making meaning. It’s about making meaning of feelings, thoughts, reactions that you have in response to events, relationships are other circumstances. When I talk to clients about their personal stories I invite them to explore how they might see themselves as if they were a character in their own story. This can help create a bit of objectivity when trying to notice and decode the stories and patterns that play out in our daily lives.
An example of a “story”
For example, if you have always been someone that is good in school and you received a lot of reward for achievement academically, then there might be a lot of your story that’s wrapped up in the identity of being someone who is a high achiever or does well in school. If you look at that from a psychological perspective, if there are later instances in which you don’t do well (that is, if you don’t achieve the things that you seek out to) then it could be devastating. You might feel anything from sadness, frustration, anxiety and perhaps even depression. This is in large part because that perceived failure doesn’t fit with the story of being a high-achiever. Failing, in this sense, doesn’t fit how you see yourself. That failure doesn’t fit how other people are SUPPOSED to see you.
Enter personal crisis.
It’s hard to bounce back from this kind of moment, even if you intellectually understand that this failure isn’t the end of the world. Despite this, sometimes still need a bit of help bouncing back in unlearning our personal stories.
What I often ask of those clients is, “what if you had a new story?” What if it was time to shed the old story completely and write a new one? What if the previous story that you’ve been holding onto wasn’t even of your creation and you’ve just been executing out of fear and pressure? Maybe those achievements aren’t actually important to YOU at all. Maybe other factors are much more important and central to who you are!
Taking control of your life may often look like rewriting your personal story.
So the next time that you experience a flood of negative emotions, or a lot self-critical thoughts ask yourself, “What is my story? Where do I fit in the story? And, is it time for this story to change?”
Are you interested in rewriting your story? At Viva we can help. View our New Client page and submit an inquiry so that you can get started on the next phase of your mental health journey.