The way we story our lives will directly impact our emotional health. Sad stories only paint a dark picture. The stories that we tell ourselves are however, not necessarily the whole story. And where does a story start and end? If you catch someone at a certain point of their story you might find joy, pain, terror, bliss, hope and so on. When is a narrative finished? Narrative therapy is all about this very topic of re-storying our lives. And it is something that is central to regression therapy work also.
The truth of the matter is that we rarely tell ourselves the whole story. And so, truth is not really a feature. We edit, generalise and distort facts to create the story. At the same time, sad stories can change. Sad stories can evolve. And just because something made us feel sad towards the end of that event, it doesn’t mean that it was always sad. In fact the sadness often indicates that there was something beautiful that preceded it. And so it is more about choice – what we choose to focus on.
So, understanding that our sad stories are more about our choices than any sense of truth, what we need to ask ourselves is this: Is this story useful?
David’s Anxiety: Stuck on Sad Stories
I often ask clients to recall positive memories which serve as useful resources in changing a negative state which began in the past. I then associate these positive resources with the client as they move through their timeline towards the present, changing all of those negative patterns along the way. (This is a very simplistic explanation of regression).
David was one such client who came in for anxiety. We found his positive resources and he brought them through to the present, claiming that he felt lighter as a result. Some of these resources were found in a relationship that he had experienced some years back. He could identify feeling loved, safe and accepted through that memory and so these were the resources he brought through.
But then, as we moved those resources into the future setting, David became depressed. He told me that things did not ‘work out’ that way and so instead he had brought in all of the pain and the sadness that he associated with another part of that story. His mind automatically went to the demise of the relationship, rather than focusing on those beautiful moments in time, which is what I had asked him to do.
I had to ask David how this focus on the pain and the sadness was useful to him. I also needed to explain that just because the relationship did not ‘work out’ (at this point in time at least), that the beautiful memories were just as valid as the negative ones. In fact you could say they are more valid, simply because they are more useful.
Once David understood and agreed that the story we tell ourselves is not the whole truth, and in fact it is often edited, generalised and distorted, he was able to then isolate those positive resources and carry them into the future.
Choosing Your Story
It is not about pretending that there wasn’t any pain, or pretending that someone treated you well after all, but it is about enabling your unconscious mind to re-experience the optimal version of events. Instead of editing out the good stuff, we are editing out the bad stuff. This way we can create happy stories. Once your unconscious mind moves away from those sad stories, it can begin to form more positive patterns of emotion.
Whether you are stuck on sad stories or reinventing your past with a focus on the positive, neither is about truth, and both are choices. Knowing that, which one will you choose? If you need assistance, we can help. Horizons Clinical Hypnotherapy Sunshine Coast