Every word and sentence that people say about themselves tells an enduring and more consistent story of how they perceive and experience life. For example, if someone refers to others as “stupid” and then utters painful stories where they expose ideas of their own worthlessness, it begins to shape a narrative of the way that person suffers.
This person may see things in a depressed light. He or she may believe that life only deals a poor hand of cards, that nothing good could be dealt and that life is meaningless. However, such statements begin to shape a pattern of one’s reality, whether the person is aware of it or not.
A key to transformation begins with perception. Perception uses the faculties of the senses to come into awareness of something and construct a lived reality. To varying degrees, we perceive every moment to help us understand and function within the world we live in. We typically perceive things without being conscious of how sensory information is interpreted and organized through our nervous systems. Instead, we go about experiencing life, sensing and feeling our way through.
We perceive every moment to help us understand and function within the world we live in.
Perception helps form the realities we experience. One experience after another begins to build the narrative of our lives just like a story with a beginning, middle and end. Words tell a story of what one perceives. Oftentimes, people are unaware that how they speak about experiences helps organize the mental framework of their personal narrative.
If I were to tell a story about how everything went wrong, then it could be a stand-alone story of bad luck. If I told similar stories every day, then that could become an enduring tale of personal defeat and disappointment, expressed in my daily life.
How do we become conscious of the narratives that we may be writing? Long-term psychotherapeutic work suggests that when we become more conscious of false narratives, we ultimately transform them.
When we become more conscious of false narratives, ultimately we transform them.
Here are some points to consider for self-reflection:
Reflect on what you call in.
Perception teaches us that, while we may not be conscious of it every moment, it can help us reflect on how to attract the best possible experience and create the highest quality outcome. This may mean sensing that good things will happen as opposed to the worst.
This could mean intentionally reflecting on and drawing in positive emotions, thoughts, images and energy to help serve the day and fortify a more resilient life narrative for the long-term. This is a daily and even a moment-to-moment reflection.
Listen to the pattern.
Each person has a pattern of internal communication based on word choice and tone, which frames the narrative of one’s life. The way to identify your patterns is to listen to yourself without judgment.
For one day, listen to the words you use to describe yourself, others and the world around you. How would you describe your language and tone? For example, perhaps you notice that your language is quite defeatist or maybe your tone represents a positive narrative of faith and perseverance.
Do this exercise over multiple days and see if there is a pattern you see emerging. Try to be open to what is and refrain from self-critique.
Listen to yourself without judgment.
Reframe the pattern by taking responsibility.
People can attempt to revise the pattern by taking responsibility for their portion of healing. For this exercise, focus on a particular event that recently occurred that was charged for whatever reason.
How would you describe what happened in two sentences? Take a step back and consider that there may be multiple sides to the story. While you may feel connected to your side of the story, see if you can hold onto it less nd observe things from another perspective. The other perspective may not always feel good to think about.
Now imagine that you are an author attempting to write the story in a balanced way to present a perspective for greater healing. Would you see the experience in the same way, an alternative way, a mishmash of both or something else?
You are the author of your narrative.
False narratives rely on experiences happening to you without you happening to them. People may perceive things happening to them without their intended participation. In many cases, but certainly not all, you may have a role to play, which could be quite empowering.
Through the everyday choices you make, you are the author of your life. This is an invitation to step into that experience. You have the right, the ability and the wisdom to take any experience and “write it” in a way that empowers you.
You have the right, the ability and the wisdom to take any experience and “write it” in a way that empowers you.
If you did not get the job you wanted, change the narrative to not a “job lost” but “a future opportunity gained.” If a relationship ends, then rewrite the narrative from “a bitter ending” to “two consenting individuals doing their best with disattaching.” Your version will be better because it is yours, and it will be authentic to you.
Take a moment. Call in a false narrative, perceive it in the light of day as opposed to the shadow of the night. Reframe the words and tone. Write it in your own way. Sign your name under it and make it the new signature of your life: one of truth, empowerment and wisdom.
Have you ever made assumptions about other people or written a false narrative in your head? What power have you found in reframing your thoughts?
Image via Navarro Aydemir, Darling Issue No. 17