Human beings are a storytelling bunch. It's how we make sense of ourselves and the world around us. But have you ever stopped to think about which narratives we tell and why?
If you answered no, that's to be expected. Most of us have moved through life on auto pilot not really thinking about the messages we're given -- the narratives handed down through family lines, history class, media and so on. And then there are the stories we've subsequently been spinning. Sometimes those narratives are about us, our relationships or the world at large. Sometimes those narratives are unconscious and other times they are so loud they just repeat over and over again in our minds. But if ever there was a time to pause and unpack the narratives of our times, it's now.
Here's an example: A couple of weeks ago, here in the San Francisco Bay Area we woke up to dark orange skies due to the epic number of climate-induced wildfires in our area. I'm not going to pretend that it wasn't unsettling, it truly was. But what was even more unsettling than the scene itself were the number of headlines that made reference to 'the apocalypse' or 'end of days'. Social media followed suit. Or maybe it was the other way around.
Either way, most people I talked to that day - clients, neighbors, friends, family - were making similar references. And with that narrative came a sort of hopelessness. Not the kind that passes quickly, but the kind that's insidious, paralyzing.
It wasn't until a few days later that I saw other folks on social media elevating alternative narratives. Below is an image that was circulating on IG and Facebook. Unfortunately, I don't have the information to appropriately credit it here.
But what a change in perspective, yes?
Exploring stories is a big part of the work I do with clients. This practice shows up in numerous psychotherapy approaches, but most notably Narrative Therapy which is considered a postmodern approach. That means it's rooted in the premise that reality is subjective. What I love about this work is that we are encouraged to unpack the stories we've held and author our own experiences.
This isn't just the case for big events like, let's say living through a pandemic or catastrophic wildfires. It's also a powerful tool for every day life and sometimes is as simple as word choice. Notice the difference in stories here:
"I am stuck at home." vs "I am safe at home."
How does your experience shift reading each statement? Perhaps both feel true to you and your experience becomes more nuanced.
An easy way to begin exploring this concept is is to take a few minutes at the end of the day and ask yourself: How was my day? Be mindful in your response. Notice what events get privileged and given more weight. Notice which events fall to the waste side.
I encourage you to experiment, be curious. In a time when we have such little control over external events, we do have autonomy to choose the stories we tell ourselves and others.
Till Next Time, Wishing you Health & Ease,