Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – email@example.com
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We all have stories to tell. I don’t mean the funny stories we might churn out in a social situation, about strange and wonderful things that have happened to us in the past. I have a great story about a friend who drove his car off the side of a station platform – but I don’t mean stories like that. I mean the stories we have about our lives, about things that have contributed to who we are today. These may be tough stories to think about – and tougher to tell – about abuse or violence. They may be things that happened to us that shaped our beliefs – things our parents or teachers told us about ourselves, maybe negative messages about what we couldn’t do – or positive messages about our talents. These stories tend to be about emotionally charged times – times when we have been scared, or angry, or felt really happy, or guilty, or proud of ourselves.
We tend, I think, to remember things that have affected us emotionally (although we may blank out memories that are particularly painful). But these emotionally-intense experiences are the things that tend to shape us, to be landmarks in the development of our personalities.
When you think about your own stories, you probably look at them in a fixed way – by which I mean that you tell them in the same, or in similar ways each time – whether you are telling them to yourself or to someone else. This is particularly the case with stories from a long time ago – and sometimes with these stories we remember them second hand (at least partly) – from what our parents have told us, for example. But is interesting that if we check out one of these stories, perhaps with a brother or sister, they will often have quite different memories.
There are different sides to every story but sometimes we can become stuck with a particular version, and an accumulation of different stories can leave us with a belief about ourselves. “I’m unlucky in love” – “I’m always messing things up” – “Nothing bothers me” – “I’ve never fulfilled my potential”…..and many more. But if we believe these things about ourselves we will tend to move forward expecting them to happen again. “I’m unlucky in love” – so this new relationship will be another failure. “I’m always messing things up” – so this new opportunity will fail and I’ll blame myself for it….and so on.
Where I am going with this is that we can tell ourselves stories in whatever way we choose. So, for example, if you remember the breakup of a relationship with sadness, try telling yourself the story in a different way. Can you be angry about it? Can you blame your ex rather than yourself? Can you look at what was wrong with the relationship and see its ending as a lucky escape? Can you think of all the things you did to try to make it work – and see yourself as a bit of a hero?
The way we tell these stories is a choice – and so the way we look at ourselves is a choice as well. For victim, read survivor: for unstructured, read creative: for stubborn, read determined. We cannot change our past, but we can look at it differently, we can look at ourselves differently, and in doing so we can help to shape the future to make it different from the past.