Is Your Personal Narrative a Help or a Hindrance?

Does your personal narrative support you and help you to accomplish your goals and find peace?

We all have a personal narrative that we operate in lockstep with.  Yes, even you.  It’s the personal story that we’ve developed and it’s how we see ourselves in the world.  It’s also the framework with which we process experiences, and we employ it help us judge those experiences as good or bad, helpful or hurtful.  Our narrative is the voice running in our head, and is our constant companion that we willingly, albeit often unconsciously, embrace, partner up with and act in accordance with in experiencing our daily lives.

An identical thing can happen to two different people, and based on how that experience filters through their internal narrative, their endgame experience can be quite different. 

A simple example would be what happens when someone acts rude towards us.  A person with a positive personal narrative will leave that rudeness with the individual expressing it, and the negative experience will end there.  They won’t spend any energy on it.  However, when a different person experiences that same rude behavior, there can be a very different outcome.  The negativity of the rudeness may be consistent with their more negative narrative, or personal story if you will. The voice in their head may harangue them with “people are always rude” or “no one respects me” or “I always get taken advantage of”.  That one experience of rudeness will hook into the bedrock of negative examples they have stored away in memory, and work to affirm that negative things always happen to them.

Personal narratives aren’t always negative however; to the contrary, they can also be quite supportive.  There are people who have bad things happen, but because their narrative is that they are lucky and things always work out for them, they will have a far different and easier time dealing with problems.  Since problems are not consistent with their positive personal story, each problem will be taken as a single stand-alone experience, dealt with and dismissed.

If you are still with me, then let’s get back to the original question.  What is your narrative and does it work to support or stifle you?  Here’s an exercise that you can do to find out:

Make a list of three things that you would like to change.  You may want to start something, improve upon something, or stop something.  An example may be that you want to get more exercise, or perhaps you want to quit smoking.  Or, you may want to be more outspoken to loved ones about what you need, with the goal of getting your needs met.  It really can be anything that is important to you.  After you have made the list of three (we don’t want to get overwhelmed just yet), then make another column alongside of your list.  In that column, write down the things that keep you from getting the three things on your first list accomplished.

Then, try to distill out your narrative.  You may say, “oh, I can never stick with a workout plan like other people can” or “I always fail when I try to quit smoking” or with family “I’m just not good at speaking up” and “no one ever listens to me”.

Those are just the kind of sound bytes that narratives can consist of and they keep us stuck and unable to move forward to accomplish what we want.  They help script our life story and explain to us why we cannot do certain things, and why we cannot change.

This blog is short, but hopefully it has started you thinking about your personal narrative.  The goal is to have more fun and fulfillment in life and to have our thoughts and beliefs support us on our journey.  It is what we do in coaching, and you can start to do it on your own with getting a clearer picture of how your narrative might be serving you, or getting in your way.  

Life Coach Liz Hoffmann, BA, MBA, CPC owns Atlas Coaching LLC.  She works with clients in her Fairfield Center Office by appointment and is accepting new clients.  To discuss if coaching is right for you, or to schedule an appointment with Liz, please send her an email at Liz@AtlasCoaching.net  Or, for more information visit her at http://www.AtlasCoaching.net

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Craig Donofrio January 30, 2012 at 07:33 PM
This is all true, and actually has a neurological sort of basis for it. My layman's understanding of it this: the brain strengthens pathways between neurons the more a certain network is accessed. So, the more you do anything--read, gamble, think negatively, think positively, etc., the more that pathway is strengthened. Negative thinking begets negative thinking (and the opposite is true), especially because you begin to associate everything as negative, and it becomes harder to beak the pattern with positive thinking (the opposite is also true here as well). Anyway, that's my not-very-scientific 2-cents. "The Brain That Changes Itself" is a great way to get into the subject, and deals with a number of different areas of brain plasticity which you might to be able to apply to your own life.


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