Rewrite the Stories You Tell Yourself
Rewrite the stories you tell yourself, and you will find it easier to bounce back from failure and recover from loss.
I have a collection of favorite stories about myself. I bet you do too. There’s the time I went skinny-dipping in the town pool; how my minister father held the ladder when a group of friends and I painted something on (i.e. vandalized) the high school roof; how I talked my way into an exclusive private event at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. As I tell these stories I relive good memories, connect with people, and sometimes gain the ultimate compliment—a laugh.
What Kind of Stories Do You Tell Yourself?
Most of us have other kinds of stories too. How she lied, he did me wrong, they hurt me, I was cheated. Often, bad stories get more air time. People often respond more to tragedy than good news. Perhaps that stems from compassion or sympathy? I hope it’s not schadenfreude—that great German word meaning satisfaction at someone’s misfortune. The Bible tells us to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. I’ve noticed some people are more likely to weep with me than rejoice with me! Regardless, the stories we tell ourselves have power.
Painful Stories Keep Pain Alive
- Ranting feels good…at first. When things go wrong it feels good to pick up the phone and vent.
“You won’t believe what happened.”
“It was horrible.”
“They’ve done it again!”
I used to think it was healthy to express my feelings and get things off my chest. Now I’m not so sure, because…
- Repeating stories embeds them in our minds. The more I talk about frustration, the more frustrated I feel. Scientists say repetition hardwires pathways in our brains. Anxiety, panic attacks, explosions of anger occur when events trigger a familiar response. Reactions to deep-seated injuries or traumas are beyond my knowledge and the scope of this article. Yet I believe repeating even minor stories of victimization, anger, and frustration primes my brain to experience more of the same. That’s why I’ve discovered my mindset can be transformed when I…
Rewrite the Stories You Tell Yourself and Elevate Your Growth
- Rewrite the story. If meditation influences activity in areas of the brain associated with anxiety, fear, anger, and depression, might it matter if I meditate on blessings and the good things in my life, instead of the problems? I think so. Rewriting the story means I make an intentional choice about my thoughts. After a disappointment, I can say “What did I expect, those jerks never give me a chance.” Or I say “I learned something important. Now I’m one step closer to success.” It also helps to…
- Refocus on gratitude. Even in bad times, there is something for which to be grateful. During a sad time in my life, I had a job that required me to go to nursing homes every day. Many days I felt quite depressed and had to force myself to get out of bed and get dressed.
When I went into the first nursing home I’d look around and say, “My life’s not so bad. I’m free to live where I want. I can drive myself anywhere I want. I can run and walk and play tennis and feed myself.” That simple act of rewriting my story, with a focus on gratitude, changed everything.
Several years ago I filmed myself reading from the marvelous book Praying for Strangers by my friend River Jordan.
During a perilous year when both her sons deployed into war zones, River rewrote her story and focused on others. She prayed for a stranger every day, then wrote a bestselling book about what happened.
How to Rewrite the Stories You Tell Yourself
You can choose a physical signal (for example, a click of your fingers or the snap of a rubber band against your wrist) to remind yourself to interrupt an old story running through your head and replace it with a positive phrase or mantra.
Journaling is a powerful daily habit that has been shown to boost both psychological and physical health
Perhaps you start with an oft-repeated story, and then write about the ways you’ve changed since then, or powerful lessons you gained from the experience. New to journal writing? Start by writing affirmations to get in the practice of feeding positive messages to your brain.
Do you have a story you need to rewrite?
Think of a dark, difficult time or event. Did it help you grow in any way? What did you learn? How did something good come into your life because of this hard time?
Write down the new version in your journal. Find affirmations that come from this new story, and repeat them to yourself several times a day.
I’d love to hear how this works for you.
© 2021 Healthy Habits Communications LLC