by Mike Bundrant
(NaturalNews) This article is a follow up to part one, which discussed personal narratives. All of us have a personal narrative, which is a life story that answers the question, Who are you? How we tell our story has a dramatic impact on every aspect of life, including our mental health, relationships and future happiness.
If you tell your story in a way that makes sense of your past and your present situation in life, then you can make sense of your entire life in a totally satisfying way. You are then in the best possible situation to create a compelling future.
For many people, the story of their life is discouraging. In other words, they tell themselves the same old story in a way that justifies and enables more of the same in present life.
An unhealthy story
I asked a client, Sheila, why she didn’t have a mature and stable relationship with husband and she said the following:
He reminds me of my mother. I remember when my mother would treat me poorly, like the time she told me I was dumb. I got upset and started to cry. I told my mother that she upset me. She got angry and said, ‘You always do that – you always blame me. I can’t do anything without being misunderstood.’
This story is unhealthy for several reasons. It is outdated, using old events to justify current problems. The story positions the client as the victim. It also incoherent in that doesn’t make sense to explain your adult-adult relationship in the present in terms of an old adult-child relationship.
Until the Sheila learns to live and tell a different story, she won’t be capable of creating the relationship she wants with her husband. Continually retelling an outdated story simply places too many limitations on her relationship and does not allow her to approach her husband as an adult, with all of her adult resources in tact. With a little help, Sheila revised the story as follows.
The unhealthy story revised
For many years I chose to engage with my mother. In doing so, I chose not to get my emotional needs met. I tolerated what I now see as her narcissism. I agreed to play this crazy-making game, acting as though everything was about her. In doing so, I deprived myself and disappointed myself. I sacrificed my integrity so that I could have her in my life even though it wasn’t good for me.
And, now, being with my husband is a chance for me to conduct myself in a totally different way. When he’s not emotionally available, for the most part, we can talk it through. Although I am responsible for picking a man who on occasion reminds me of people from my past, like my mom, I can break this pattern by conducting myself in a different way, even when I feel scared, because deep down I know he’s a good man. This means that from now on I won’t withdraw and I won’t get angry, because those are outdated ways of behaving that I used with my mother.
The updated version of the story puts the Sheila in a powerful position. Her story makes sense. It is told from an adult perspective. It takes full responsibility for her actions and it opens up entirely new possibilities for her future.
The retelling and reliving her old story in this new way is a massive paradigm shift for Sheila that will color every aspect of her life as she moves forward.
Try this exercise
Take out a pen and paper and write the question: How did I get where I am in life? Then, write the answer however it comes to you. Once this is done, ask yourself how you can rewrite the story, if necessary, from a healthier, adult perspective. A healthy, adult perspective means the story will take personal responsibility and will be relevant, honest and inclusive of others’ perspective.
When you have a healthy, clear, mature and satisfying story that explains your life so far, you are ready to create a compelling future. That future will not be limited by attachment to the past, but highlight the most valuable lessons from the past.
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