Telling New Stories
We are created by stories. These come from our family, friends, school, culture, faith group and even the geography of where we live. These stories tell us who we are, for better or worse.
For example, I grew up with a story that my only value to others was if I either entertained them or made them feel better. This story was my reality. It changed the way I related to others, how I walked and it also then contributed to high levels of social anxiety.
The Power of Story
The real power of story is that it tells what our purpose is and who we are. This can be problematic. I have seen many people who have come to me for coaching or therapy who have very negative and damaged stories about who they are. The real truth is that God has a story for our lives that may even occasionally emerge through these other narratives. It is always bigger, wilder and more expansive than what we think is the truth.
In my book ‘Get Unstuck-Change the Script, Change your Life’ I explore how these stories can get stuck on us to the point that we believe them to be totally true, and how changing the story can change our future.
It is so important to realise that the stories we live by, while feeling real, are fictional. This perspective makes it easier to move to the next step, which is finding God’s real story for our lives and creating a new narrative - and a story which is a true reflection of who we were created to be.
The Tool of Imagination
We have these incredible tools like imagination and visualisation which helps us to see who we really are with eyes of faith. A simple way to do this is to imagine a situation you are likely to face in your day to day life that you are nervous about. Anxiety and fear is often rooted in predicting a negative story that hasn’t even happened yet. We can switch this for a story of how well that situation could go. This can even be felt in the body and small shifts in posture. Actors use these techniques to get into a new story or role. I have found these techniques work just as well with people who wouldn’t think they were imaginative or creative. After all, if we have enough creativity to scare ourselves with imagined fears, we have enough imagination to create new stories.
We can also use improvisation and role play methods to create and start living out new stories therapeutically. I have found that people can shift out of old stories quite quickly through making physical changes in posture, breathing and even clothing choices. But the key at the heart of it all is the imagination. I have a little saying. ‘If you can’t see it, you can’t become it’.
What story do you feel like you are living? Is it one which gives life or limits you and those around you? Why not take a moment to pray and ask God - what is HIS story for you? Hear his heart for you - and ask yourself - what one thing could I change about how live so I can play my part in God’s story for me?
André Radmall is psychotherapist and writer who has worked in Harley Street, the Priory Hospital and the NHS. He has published books about addiction, written for various print media and appeared on TV as a psychological expert.
His new book ‘Get Unstuck-Change the Script, Change your Life’ is available here on Amazon.