Change Your Narrative, Change Your Life

black-woman-writing-pfIn conversation with a friend a few weeks ago, in talking about herself she said, “I’m difficult.”

She’s not a negative person. In fact her positivity is otherwise infectious. This was just the habitual way in which she experienced and spoke about herself. From previous conversations I knew that this sense of “difficultness,’’ and “being different,” was more pervasive than it sounded in this one statement. So, I said, “ORRRR you could say, I tend to over think things some times.”

Suspecting that it resonated with her, I asked, “Doesn’t, ‘I’m difficult,’ feel different from, ‘I tend to overthink things some times’?” The way she looked at me in the space between my having said so, and asking the follow up question, I knew it had. Relief was offered in the last statement as there is a suggestion of manageability—“this can be changed”.

Why The Story You Tell Matters

It might not seem a big deal what stories you tell about yourself, but there are indeed two reasons you want to be mindful of the stories you tell.  For one, these messages stay active in your subconscious and become apart of the fabric of your being.  Your subconscious is programmed to make these messages a reality. In so doing, your conscious mind doesn’t stand a chance. Second, from a metaphysical perspective, you attract the exact circumstances that are alive in both your conscious and subconscious.

What Stories Do You Tell About Yourself and Your Life?

Which kind of statements do you use more frequently? “I live a charmed life. Things always work out for me.” OR “I can never catch a break. Things are never easy for me.”

We’re such self-preserving creatures (meaning we want to esteem ourselves highly and not have to change in anyway) that your first conscious thoughts might be, “Nope. I’m positive. Don’t have that problem.” But I bet if you dig and search yourself in multiple contexts (in friendships, among co-workers, at school, in romantic relationships, etc.) you can find some previously undetected, defeatist kind of thinking.

Here are some concrete, more specific examples:

  • I’m always late.
  • I cant save money.
  • I’m not good at math.
  • I never win anything.
  • People are never there when you need them.

Tell A Better Feeling Story

When you tell stories such as the above, and they become your reality, you are complicit in creating your undesired reality. If you don’t want this, the answer is simple, tell a different story.

Let’s take something simple such as, “I’m always late.”

What feels better than that? Sure you can jump to the opposite, “I’m never late,” but because you might not experience it as truth and consequently don’t believe it-it doesn’t produce any detectable emotional shift for you. So I suggest, reaching for something only slightly different such as, “I have a tendency not to manage my time well.” Thereafter you can climb higher up the ladder of positivity, “I can learn new techniques to manage my time, “ and/or, “By this time next year, I will learn to manage my time better where it matters (i.e. work).” What you say doesn’t matter as much as the energy you offer on the subject matters.  Point is, just tell a different story.

In the words of Jerry & Esther Hicks, “If you let your dominant intention be to revise and improve the content of the story you tell every day of your life, it is [an] absolute promise…that your life will become that ever improving story.”

Frugalista’s:  Idenitfy some defeatist thinking we need to do away with. Sometimes we can’t see it, unless others point it out….

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9 Comments

  1. This post is fantastic! I think that it’s very easy to talk down to yourself-and not realize that you’re doing that. What we tell ourselves are more powerful than what other people may say about you. I am in the process of re-programing myself and really becoming aware of what I am telling myself. It’s an ongoing practice and takes time to consistently tell yourself positive thoughts.

    1. Actually, (Narrative Psychologist here ;), positive self-talk can become your default modus operandi. I.e., you can re-establish the absolutely positive sense of yourself that is so busy pursuing self-knowledge and self-expression that negative self-talk becomes foreign – actually :).

      1. Good morning ladies!! We’re always deeply appreciative of those who take the time to read AND comment ;). MICHELLE: Thanks so much!! Yeah, I think what you said is key…”we don’t always realize it.” We don’t always realize the charge of our statements and that seemingly benign statements can carry the message of, “I can’t”–I’ve recently started hypnosis that gets at some of our unconscious beliefs in ways that other modalities are limited. I’m going to write a post on that, and how it helps address this, so please look out for it! — Building on that, thanks for your expertise MYRA-. I agree that’s the goal! Let’s make positive self-talk our default! I think first though, we have to open our eyes to the kinds of statements that our common in our culture, that we don’t even realize have a negative charge. Would you agree?– Are you a researcher, or do you use narrative psychology in practice? or both? Very interesting.

        1. Good morning Norissa (& Michelle),

          Looks like you’re a morning person like me :). I absolutely agree. My ears are sensitive to it, and I hear it all the time. In terms of what I do, “both” is the answer. I worked for the past 5 years as a Dean at a University, but have returned to my true work- teaching, researching, & practicing Narrative Psychology. I’m new to your blog and enjoy it very much!

          1. Yes, Im definitely a morning person. lol. –Great!! Thank you. I’m just one of about 4-5 writers here on this blog. So glad you enjoyed it. —Im finished up my dissertation in Applied Developmental Psych at Fordham University…fingers crossed I’m done by December

          2. Oh my, congratulations! You will feel wonderful when you’re done, and you’ll never lose that feeling! Exciting. So you must be a Richard Lerner fan? I believe he coined the label Applied Developmental Psych. He is one of my absolute favorite, both in writing and in person. I have a couple of his articles on my desk this very moment to read/use. What are your specific interests? Pardon the barrage of questions…

          3. Thank you! No pardon needed. And yes, I am def a Richard Lerner fan. — My masters is in social work and I worked clinically for a few years before returning to school. So my specific interests are cross cultural differences in the development of coping skills and mental health related behaviors. Of late, and the topic of my dissertation, “Does Cultural Competence Moderate Treatment Outcomes for Depressed U.S. Ethnic Minority Youth,” I have been developing expertise in cultural competence; working as a Director of Cultural Competence in a nearby County. –Im so counting on that excitement! ha! As Im sure you know, its been a grueling 5 years, but the closer I do get to the end, the sweeter it feels. –Thanks so much for the support

          4. Hugely important, cultural competence. I didn’t quite get it til I had to teach a few sessions on cultural psych for a colleague… Let your readers know when you’re done, so we can congratulate you!

            Now for the self-talk thing: We would probably agree that the end goal is to arrive at spontaneous positivity, yes?

          5. You’re right! I will! I would have overlooked that, had you not said so. –yes, spontaneous positivity…so ingrained, you cant be anything but positive!

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