Map the old story
As a therapist helping people map out the stories they have been telling themselves is a core part of my work. These stories may be full of unquestioned assumptions about what life is like and how to behave. They are often quite unconscious and deeply toxic. These stories shape how people see the world, themselves and others. I think it is hard to change unless these stories are clear. Even the process of becoming more self-aware will start to loosen the grip of these narratives on a person. Once my clients see a story they have inherited from their family, culture or traumatic events, they will be in a better position to make another story to live. For me, I had a deep story that I would only have any worth to others to the extent that I entertained or cared for them. That was an exhausting story to live out! Once I saw it I was in a better position to change it.
This is the hinge upon which everything changes. It is very easy to try and rush into new stories and ways of living without going through this stage. That way lies disappointment. Recovery programs like AA talk about surrender to a higher power or god. In my experience this is linked to a an awareness of being loved and exercising a loving approach to ourselves. Without a compassionate and mindful approach to ourselves we are unlikely to make any lasting changes.
There are two aspects to this pivot point. Firstly, we surrender to a power greater than ourselves (some call this god or the universe) and ask this god to help. We can’t make the transition into a new life without the help of a power greater than ourselves. This power is compassionate and loving. Secondly, we learn to practice this compassion whenever we think about ourselves in negative ways. Rather than beating ourselves up, we listen, we get curious and we practice a loving approach to our own lives. It is from this position that we can create some new stories to live.
New stories, new life
Because we mapped out our beliefs and stories in step 1, we can now map some new stories. These will often be the exact opposite of the old ones. So for example I asked myself, what if my worth had nothing to do with others reactions and was just there, all the time? I started to ask myself, ‘what if?’ What if I was free from the old story? What would my relationships look like then? What would my way of dealing with stress look like? Out of these questions you can build an alternative story. The final part of this step is to start living out THAT story. You may not feel it is true at first but that is only because it is unfamiliar. So I suggest to clients that they live out their new story as if it was true. The more this happens the more the new story becomes a new reality.