I love telling stories. One of my favorite things to do is to swap stories with loved ones over a good meal, laughing and enjoying one another’s company. Such joy!
We all tell stories. Sometimes we tell them to others, but mostly we tell them to ourselves. Some of them are full of love and light and laughter. More are shriveled and scary and mean. Many of the stories we tell ourselves are our way to make sense of what’s happening – to us, to our loved ones, in the world. Eventually, we tell these stories to ourselves so many times that they become our truth, whether they’re actually true or not.
In the last several decades, more of us have come to believe that the stories we tell ourselves can negatively impact healing. Just as the placebo effect illustrates the power of belief to improve outcomes, unhealthy beliefs based in guilt, shame, blame, and lack contribute to declining health and well-being. We are literally making ourselves sick with our stories.
Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of stories from clients. Although each story is unique, one unifying element exists: People are emotionally stuck. When we are experiencing mad, sad, and scared, the stories we tell ourselves about who made us mad, sad, and scared keep us stuck. Stuck is the place where we keep asking “Why?” It’s the place where we tell ourselves that if we ask it enough, we’ll get an answer that makes it all make sense.
But what if there is no answer? What if the answer never makes sense? How do we release the anger, anxiety, depression, fear, grief, and trauma? How do we heal?
The first step is to become aware of the story. Pay attention to your words and how often you speak them to yourself and to others. Try this: For one week, write down every time you catch yourself brooding over a hurt or slight. Write down every time you think about it, talk about it, allow it to influence whatever you do (or don’t do) or say (or don’t say) inwardly and outwardly. Journal about it at length or make simple hash marks – just keep track. You’ll surprise yourself with just how much time and energy you give to maintaining the story. Try it for another week (you’ll get better at catching yourself). Still surprised? Want to change your story?
Make an appointment. Tell me your story. Choose to forgive. Healing awaits.