When it comes to our memory we don’t often think of it as story telling because our memory is a collection of our recollections. When we re-tell a story from our past the way we present that material and our willingness to present that information differently actually creates how that memory is stored and changed over time. This doesn’t mean that our memories are always inaccurate of invaluable. On the contrary it means that our memories, and our telling of them gives us the chance to write out own story and emphasize the parts that we want to focus on.
Many therapies focus on our thoughts (cognitions) and our interpretation of those thoughts. Our beliefs are essentially rigid thoughts developed from our values and our life experiences that allow us to label the event as good or bad. How we talk about ourselves impacts how we feel about ourselves, and therefore how we speak about our past experiences helps to shape how we feel about our past experiences.
I want to be clear, this is not done in an event to minimize or discredit our experience but done instead to help us to let go of stories that no longer serve us, meaning they create distress or feelings that are counteractive to how we want to hold the memory or prevent us from being able to connect with our present moment.
For example “I wasn’t really good at sports or activities. I signed up doing a lot of different things but I never found anything I was naturally good at. I didn’t take a lot of the activities very seriously because I wasn’t very good and felt like people were going to find out how bad I was and not want me to participate. I didn’t develop really close friendships during these activities and was always headed off to the next thing.”
Or I can tell the same story this way; “I signed up for a lot of different activities. I thought people were supposed to have something they were really good at without trying very hard. This belief resulted in me becoming frustrated when I wasn’t very good and instead of focusing my attention on learning or practicing, I talked to my peers a lot, so much that I missed opportunities to learn. Because of this I am able to connect better with others because I have a varied level of interest and some
experience with many different sports and hobbies.”
These are both the same story but one focuses on the strengths and one focuses on the losses. One of these stories leaves me empowered and the other leaves me feeling shame and loss. The story though is mine to tell; be careful how you narrate your story.