I was listening to some old online therapy recordings this morning and felt particularly drawn to a person who was caught in a old toxic ‘story cycle’.

The client described being tortured by their dislike for someone from their past and they couldn’t let go at all of this projected dislike. Actually the opposite of letting go had happened and they had added and embellished the story to fuel the dislike and keep the negativity going. The reason they gave for this was they couldn’t imagine letting go of the story they had created as it now felt so comfortable and secure to believe it. The reality had become lost in a grand woven story over a dispute in which the client knew their part but just couldn’t ‘go there’ as it was too painful. The therapist suggested that to let go of the story they had created would mean they may have to look at themselves in more detail and the client agreed that may be too painful….that it was easier to externalise the bad feeling and aim it at someone else than to take responsibility for who and how they were acting themselves at that time.

This got me thinking loads about how we all have our own stories or narrations. It can be a story we repeatedly tell ourselves about a person, an event or a memory. Our stories can support us “I’m right for this job and I’m going for it” or hold us back “I’m always the victim”.

Our stories can lift us or poison us, open us up to new experiences or, like the client in the recording, screw us into tight little balls of hate.
We can flit from one story to the next in a matter of minutes or hours. Letting go of our stories is like letting go of a fundamental part of us and to change our stories we often have to step into a place of vulnerability, courage and rawness. It can feel like being naked for a period of time until we locate and dress in a new set of clothes.

But if we stick rigidly to the same stories on repeat then we can’t move, change or grow. We won’t be really living just pretending to (which is a story in itself). The stories I tell myself sometimes are around not feeling ‘good enough’. It’s a startlingly common theme for many people I promise you. Years of being both client and therapist have exorcised this story to a large extent but it can pop up like the badly narrated tale it is when I’m tired, poorly or at a low ebb.

To deal with a story that holds us back consider the following;

  • Is it true?
  • Is it really true?
  • What real evidence is there to suggest it’s true?
  • Is any part of the story based on guess work, twisting, embellishment, feeling a bit cowardly or not being willing or able to remember the truth?
  • What power does telling this story give you?
  • What experiences does the story excuse you from doing/changing/living?

Would welcome your thoughts…..and big love to you, this is important life work and self-reflection can feel tough…..x