Written by Francine Baffa, LICSW, BCBA-D
Edited by Joe DeNoon
Life is a story in motion. Every day we add, revise, and view it from a different angle. We erase things, tear out pages, and then add them back. Life is a story, and we are that story. Whether you are telling yourself fact or fiction, each line is embedded in your own experience. That experience is rarely a one-person show — hovering backstage are additional characters — family, friends, co-workers — creating subplots in the story of you.
Our stories are rooted in both emotion and imagination- the depth of these transports us and transforms us. We must be careful in deciding which stories we store as memories and which are first-copy drafts to be disposed of. We are both narrators and readers of our stories — it is our job to create a meaningful text.
In The Stories We Tell Ourselves, author and therapist Scott Gornto speaks directly to how the stories we tell ourselves can add or subtract from our own anxiety. By taking control of our reactions to the people around us, we can learn how to be truly present in our lives as we nurture the relationships that matter most.
My challenge to you is to become more aware of how the stories you tell yourself make you feel. Start to notice what you’re telling yourself about everything. If a story is making you happy, and you’re aware of that, then great! If you’re not aware of it, it’s not such a big problem if it’s making you happy, but what happens if the story starts to make you unhappy with your life?
What story is on repeat? It can be very difficult to break out of that trap of version control. I know, because it happens to me all the time — I see the story I’m telling myself, but it seems so solid and real that I can’t just let it go. Here are some helpful tips….
- One thing you can do is regard it as a dream. That doesn’t mean it’s false, it just means it’s not so solid. Visualize it as a dream, not solid, and see if you can come out of the dream to the physical reality of the world around you in that moment. Ask yourself “What sensations are happening right now, as opposed to in this dream?”
- The next thing you can do is not act on the story. Even if you’re caught up in it, that doesn’t mean you have to lash out at someone or run away to distraction or comfort. Just sit with the story, notice how it’s making you feel, notice the physical sensations in your body, and just stay with your awareness.
Our self-stories paint the landscape of our lives and include shifting scenes and broken mirrors. However, the best outline is routed in our sense of self, and we navigate with an internal GPS.