The stories we tell about ourselves and our experiences matter. They shape our identity, impact our choices and behaviors and help us create meaning out of our lives. Our stories don’t just help us construct our identities, our stories are our identities.
What happens to your thoughts if the stories you tell yourself about your experiences are of loss and failure and victimization?
Can you change your thinking to rewrite your story? I believe you can with the right questions and coaching.
Stories of hope
Stories of redemption begin with an event with a problem that individuals overcome. Dr. McAdams, a Northwestern University psychology professor, wrote a piece in the Review of General Psychology Journal called the Psychology of Life Stories. He explained that “adults who score high on tests measuring civic-mindedness and who are more likely to be energetic and well adjusted, tend to tell “stories of redemption,” beginning with a negative event that they later overcome.”
We can choose to see our experiences as opportunities for growth and use models to change our thinking about what is happening to us. (We can also help kids to do this as well!)
Stories of victimization
It’s important to note that we can tell ourselves unhelpful or unproductive stories. In these stories, we are the victim and events happen to us without our control. For example, we can tell ourselves that our husband doesn’t care or that our children are ungrateful and uncooperative. We can tell ourselves stories that no one cares for us or that we should feel guilty for our lack of something.
Using Your Story
I really like using this idea of storytelling from narrative psychology to first identify what we are telling ourselves and work through You can’t change your circumstances, but you can change what you are thinking. Your thoughts are in your control. And we can change them through telling ourselves new stories.
In the next post, I will share my story of hope after a traumatic experience.