Anxiety counseling and stories we tell ourselves
Stories are the fabric of reality. They permeate our very existence. We crave stories on a daily basis. Stories told in our conversations, the books we read, and the movies we watch. Stories form the myths of all civilizations and reveal something about the psychology and worldview of a people. We too tell ourselves stories. These stories flow up from the roots of our being based on our culture and background, our life experiences, and our joys and fears. They color our perceptions of every experience we have. They reveal an inner dialogue that we may not be consciously aware of. Waking up and listening to the stories we tell ourselves can help us better navigate the ups and downs of life and provide more choices in how we respond. When we look to resolving negative emotions through various forms of anxiety counseling, we can consider these stories and how they might be affecting our lives and moods.
What are these stories?
Using a simple scenario, let’s say you are dating someone. Your partner decides to end the relationship. You feel devastated and begin to question everything about yourself. You may say “I’m not pretty or handsome enough” or “I’ll never meet someone like him/her.” You may even say “I’m not good enough and s/he wanted someone better.” Imagine the impact that has on an already hurtful (in most cases) situation. The event is the breakup and the story drives how we respond to it. In this case it would most probably increase the period of depression and recovery. Our stories are often told in the negative and filter down to an idea of lack. In other words, we question our worthiness and often believe, though unaware, that we are not good enough. These stories may actually have nothing to do with the scenario that occurred.
Why do we tell ourselves these stories?
Our underlying story comes from our life experiences, the impact they have had on us, and our own insecurities that are the result. The story is automatic and runs on continuous play unless we intervene. It has been blown out of proportion as social media has taken hold and we see the lives of others on display at every turn. We compare ourselves to those who we believe to be more successful, better looking, more popular, and seeming to live life to the fullest. The comparison enhances the story in a “see I told you so” tale. The problem is that we see only what they want us to see. We are more likely to display our life when things are going well and keep private the struggles we face. So our stories of not being good enough, of lacking, continue to unfold and further damage our self-esteem. In short, they are unnecessarily self-defeating. These stories project themselves to the past as we judge ourselves for things we did or did not do which can lead to depression. They also flow out into the future as we create a narrative of worst case scenarios and failure which increase anxiety. From the “I’m not good enough” root we come up with “I can’t”. Sometimes “I can’t” is a healthy statement when setting boundaries, but not when it comes from a self-limiting form of thinking. Believing our negative stories can certainly limit our choices. Consider how you would react if a friend or family member told you that you are not worth it, not good enough, or stupid. I can only imagine! So why are we so keen on believing our own inner dialogue that most often is not reasonable, not helpful, not based on facts, and is unrealistic? We can see how this flow of negativity fosters depression, anxiety, shame, fear, and many other feelings.
Anxiety Counseling and Narrative Therapy – Changing the story!
Consider that we have an internal experience and an external (environmental) experience. Emotions, thoughts, and judgments are internal experiences and all that we do, see, hear, et cetera are the external. The external event is what it is. How we perceive it and how it impacts us is driven by our story or stories. Changing the story requires us to slow down and become aware of the internal dialogue that is subtly, or not so subtly, taking place. We listen for the words we are using to describe ourselves. It requires a vulnerability which can be an uncomfortable place. We like to move past that vulnerable place as quickly as possible. Vulnerability is a strength. In that space the inner story most often reveals itself and where our work takes place. It is a place of discovery. We need to know what we are working with in order to change it. So vulnerability is a strength and not a weakness. It means being open, in touch, and flexible with yourself. Some find journaling a great conduit to help reveal the story. We can then start asking ourselves important questions about the story. Is it relevant? Is it helpful? What proof do I have that substantiates it? What are other, more empowering, stories that are available to me? There are many available perspectives on any given situation. So I ask, is the one you are using to describe yourself and the world a hindrance, increasing depression and anxiety, or is it a useful tool moving you toward a healthier, more dynamic idea of who you are?
We are the authors of our lives. We write the prose of our relation to self and the world. The words you choose have great significance on how we live and operate in the world. We co-create our reality in each moment. Challenges arise and our story shapes whether they are a barrier or an opportunity. It affects whether we remain a victim or empowered. It influences our ability to move forward with optimism. Narrative therapy is a method of changing these stories. The Boca Raton therapists at Morgan Center offer anxiety counseling.
Anxiety counseling with the Boca Raton therapists at Morgan Center for Counseling and Wellbeing are available to help you increase self-awareness and manage underlying self-talk that may increase and prolong depression and anxiety. If you are experiencing anxiety or depression consider contacting the therapists at Morgan Center for Counseling and Wellbeing.