As human beings, we've been compiling our own internal stories since the beginning of time. We are experts at turning events, relationships and experiences into chapters of our stories. How often do you hear yourself and others say 'this is a new chapter' or this is a 'turning point' for me in my life? We come up with reasons for why things happened, develop plots and motives and see characters come and go throughout our stories. Some characters remain present in each chapter, others appear from nowhere, turn our lives upside down and then disappear just as fast. Why do we do this?
Narrative Psychologists believe it comes down to our inherent need to create 'meaning' from our experiences. Researchers in the field of narrative psychology have studied lots of people and have found that we have a natural affinity for stories.
How we tell the stories about ourselves can be just as important as the content of the stories. Researchers have found that people with mood disorders (such as anxiety and depression) often have many positive memories, but in telling and sharing these, the stories generally end with some negative detail or disappointment. Whereas people who aren't experiencing mood disorders are more likely to tell 'stories of redemption' beginning with a negative event that they later overcome.
Take your relationship breaking down or getting divorced as an example. Is it a sign you are doomed when it comes to romance, too hard to love or a sign that actually, it's that you haven't found the love of your life yet and that you need to get out there and find him? It's that whole glass half full vs glass half empty perspective.
It's all about finding some meaning. The stories we tell about ourselves are key to helping us sparkle, and the facts matter less than the narrative. If you interpret the things that happen to you in your life to mean that you aren't good enough, unloveable in some way or destined to be unhappy, it becomes really hard to be optimistic about the future - you've written and determined the outline of your life story before it's even happened!
As a Psychotherapist, I very much believe and work on the assumption that our lives are a collection of stories. Truths about who we are, what we believe, what we came from, how we struggle and how we are strong.
I listen to so many stories (go through boxes of tissues, tea, coffee and chocolate biscuits on a regular basis) and I help my clients tell and make sense of their story because their stories more often than not, aren't expressed in a linear way. I help them own their story, gain meaning from their story, embrace their story and help and enable them to write the next chapter with a whole new mindset and renewed optimism.
I do this by using my 'bringing sparkle back' approach - a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy, psychoanalysis, narrative psychology and mindfulness - it's powerful stuff. My clients leave with a whole new sparkly story to take with them in writing their next chapters.
Have you ever asked yourself what your story is? Have you ever considered what narrative you've constructed from the things that have happened to you in your life so far?
Remember this, you have the super power and the creative licence to write the most sparklicious story there ever was. It's in your hands.
Your story matters! Tell a beautiful one.
Catherine Asta Labbett is the founder and owner of Yorkshire based 'Bringing Sparkle Back' Psychotherapy, Relationship and Life Coaching for women who want to sparkle again.