Across theories of psychology and spirituality, there is a common belief that the way we think affects how we feel. Drawing on ideas from Narrative Therapy and Neuroscience, I help my clients understand that a lot of what drives anxiety are bad news stories we have created in our minds, stories of dread and danger. As we pay attention to these threatening messages, our bodies respond with unpleasant sensations. These anxious symptoms are designed to get our attention and prepare us for fight or flight. Unfortunately they can skew our perception, hinder our ability to be creative and literally cause us to become sick. On the other hand, more and more experts in the field are finding that intentionally giving ourselves the gift of a good story, actually several good stories, has the potential to create more resilient brains and healthier individuals. As the field of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy emphasizes, your thoughts affect your feelings and your behaviours.
So what kind of story will you tell yourself?
Will it be one of lack OR abundance? Much stress comes from people fearing not having enough. It can drive people to overwork, missing precious time with loved ones and increasing our risk for burn out and illness or injury.
Will you tell yourself life is boring and there is nothing to look forward to OR will you create a story of excitement, novelty and adventure?
Will you allow others to be the author of your story by internalizing their harsh or unkind judgements OR will you remind yourself in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission?”
Will your story be filtered through the thinking traps of personalizing, all or nothing thinking and comparing yourself to others OR will you recognize when the ego is attempting to author your story and set it straight with reality checking and attuning to the moment and your unique qualities and strengths?
Will you expect the worst OR look for the best in others?
Will you be weighed down with blame towards people from your past who couldn’t give you what you needed OR will you move towards forgiveness and letting go? Will you show yourself and others criticism OR compassion?
Will you never be satisfied with what you have, always seeking more OR will you actively notice and reflect on all your life’s blessings big and small with gratitude and humility?
Will your story be filled with suffering and despair, rich with all the possible tragedies and calamities that could occur OR will you reflect on the best possible outcome for all involved and always look for opportunities within every crisis or challenge?
Will you tell yourself to rush through life because there is not enough time OR will you slow down, breathe and soak up all the beauty around you.
Will you tell yourself you know everything there is to know and anyone’s feedback or contributions are unwelcome and unhelpful OR will you remind yourself that we are all in a constant stage of growth and development and that everyone has the potential to teach us valuable lessons?
Will you tell yourself that change is scary and get stuck in fear and worry OR will you courageously turn the page and trust that no matter what happens you will be okay?
I am grateful for inspiration for this piece by Cloe Madanes’s article in the Psychotherapy Networker “The 14 Habits of Highly Miserable People”.