The world is filled with numerable narratives located within our environments, histories, books, internet, dialogues, and last but not least, our minds. Our lives are dictated by our internal monologues, assisting us in helping us make decisions and choices that lead us to different outcomes. A simple technique that allows us to change our lives (for the better) is called narrative therapy. Narrative therapy permits us to reframe our stories and aids us in developing feelings of empowerment with a greater sense of self-compassion. In the following, I will provide to you the DIY method that will assist you to reframe your story.
You can do this with a trusted friend, family member or in front of the mirror. Recite your whole story as you normally would. You may include specific details such as time, dates, environment descriptions and/or any other aspects that you feel is important to your story. As you narrate it, be aware of the emotions that you are projecting. When you are done narrating your story, consider how it makes you feel.
Did you feel sad, stressed out, fearful and/or powerless? Did you feel happy, blessed, lucky and/or empowered? Write down these emotions and/or talk about it to your close friend/family member. Anything else that strikes you, feel free to write it down.
What's your role in the story?
In our stories, we always play a certain role: martyr, victim, hero/heroine, failure, winner, rebel, and etc...In the story that you narrated, take note of what role(s) that you were playing and note them down. It is possible that in multiple segments of your life, you may have played different roles. You may organize it by categorizing each segment with a role. For example, ages 7-10: rebel, ages 15-19: failure and ages 30-40: victim.
Towards the end of every story, there's an outcome or a brief statement summarizing the narrative.
Here are two examples:
- "Yes, I felt terrible in the process and like nobody cared, but I was able to overcome ___. Now, I feel like I can follow my purpose."
- "Yes, I felt terrible in the process, and every day, I feel even more terrible. I feel that even after going through all of that, no one wants to support me. I wake up thinking, why me?"
Both endings depict different roles. The first example may show someone who played the role of a victim and ended up becoming a hero. The second may show someone who feels like a victim or martyr and continues to project him/herself as one.
I Don't Like My Story and/or My Ending
No problem, create an alternative story. This time, repeat your story by focusing on the positive aspects, and reframe negative situations by focusing on your strengths and abilities that allowed you to overcome them. You may do this by yourself or with the assistance of someone close. In this stage, you are externalizing the issues and stepping out of your story. This allows you to see your story for what it is; instead of allowing yourself to identify with your previous story.
At this stage, you may feel emotionally drained or stressed out. Allow yourself to take a deep breath. If you are having any form of anxiety, panic or revisiting traumatic experiences, then it would be best to reach out to a therapist. A therapist would provide to you a safe space to contain and process your emotions and memories.
Our narratives become our way of viewing the world. The more we identify with certain roles, the more we become those roles. When we are so engraved in our story, it may become challenging to change ourselves. We end up looping the same movie over and over again in our heads. We have the freedom and power to change our stories. We just have to be ready to hear them.
After all, Socrates said:
The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.