Using Narratives to Change Your Life.
The other day I came across a you tube video of a physicist, criticizing a hover board invention. His claim was that the invention was a hoax. While the invention in of itself was very real, looking at their kick-starter page, I felt their presentation was significantly misleading. Meaning that the hover board itself was only regulated to a special surface, versus the board being able to hover over any surface. Regardless, I also did feel that the physicist was very limiting in his critic of the project, in that it appeared that the overall theme of his critic seemed to suggest that the ambition of making a hover board to hover over any surface was not possible – I could be wrong about this.
This got me thinking about people I know and work with who operate on limiting beliefs, specifically in regards to what they can not do. Conversations geared towards problem solving with such persons can be frustrating, as their overall message is based on how their acquired knowledge and skills have lead to the conclusions of certain impossibilities. While these arguments are usually based on logic, one has to wonder, what happens if we were to focus more on using acquired knowledge and skill sets towards attaining certain possibilities?
I have written about using narratives to change your life before, and it was soundly rejected. I will chalk it up to me making a poor argument and I am now prepared to take another go at it. Let’s say you wanted to lose some unwanted weight, you purchase a scale, purchase a gym membership and consult with a nutritionist.
A protocol is established regarding your exercise regimen and your daily diet, however there lies one fundamental problem, you keep cheating on your diet. Then it stands to reason that you have developed a habitual behavioral response pattern to being triggered for various types of food, specifically types of food that you and your nutritionist have determined to be unhealthy for you.
Using the narratives technique, once you identify what your trigger is for cheating on your agreed upon diet, you construct a narrative where you are successful in overcoming your urge in engaging in poor habitual behaviors. It need not be long winded, and in most cases a simple paragraph would do, such as passing up on the urge to drink sugary drinks. If in real life passing up on the urge to drink sugary drinks like soda seems much for you, then in your narrative you detail what types of feelings, specifically negative feelings you will be forced to deal with if you passed up on a sugary drink during say.. lunch time.
Once the feeling or feelings have been identified then you construct a narrative on how you will go about making peace with these negative feelings without resorting to consuming any sugary drinks or any other substitutive that can alter your consciousness in the same way a sugary drink can. Such a narrative is focused upon the possibilities of overcoming one’s addiction to sugary drinks towards the eventual goal of losing unwanted weight. When people who have a habit of thinking within limitations, approach such a goal, they tend to focus of what’s not working while still engaging in the behavior that continues to produce the unwanted weight for themselves.
My attitude is to take the approach of leaving no stone unturned. Rather than focus on what’s not working, focus on the eventual goal. If the goal in of itself is possible to achieve, then it stands to reason that there lies many paths you can take towards achieving that goal.
Goals are like destinations, no matter where you are in the world, if you pick a destination of choice, there are multiple paths that lead towards that destination, and multiple paths that don’t.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and professional life coach.
Periodically I come across videos online with young people acting out humorous skits about humiliating experiences. In some cases it is easy to tell that these skits are based on the personal experiences of the main actor or actress while in other cases they are clearly making fun of other peoples’ misfortune.
I am going to focus on skits based on personal experiences, needless to write, making an online video to mock the misfortune of others is not okay.
If I were to meet some of the producers of the videos based on their own humiliating experience, I would like to ask them,
“Prior to making your video, did you heal from the experience?” “Did you learn the lesson you needed to learn from the experience?”
To the young girl who made the skit about how her boyfriend kept their serious relationship a secret from his family and friends and was hesitant to bring her around his family during the holidays, I wonder if she is still in that relationship? If she still is, I wonder why? Does she not consider herself worthwhile to be introduced to her boyfriend’s family and received warmly by them?
If she were a relative, I would suggest to her that perhaps she is the only one between the two, who thinks it’s a serious relationship.
To my Nigerian brethren who made the video about how Nigerian parents are notorious for beating their children who behave in non African traditional ways – that’s not funny. Yes, I know, most people think it’s funny, but it’s really not. If you disagree with me, simply insert yourself into the shoes of the two main characters.
There is nothing more damaging to the self esteem of a teenage young man, who has put in a lot of work into toasting and inviting a female friend over to his home. Only to be walked in on by his father and beaten in front of her. Furthermore, beating a confused girl who has decided to strip before a camera only worsens her damaged identity.
“But I no dey vex for una,” your other videos are funny expect this one.
We have to be honest with ourselves, because lies only help us in soothing our feelings. That way we can pretend not to be bothered by events we have experienced. Events while unfortunate, provide a sliver lining for us to achieve significant growth via painful feelings.
This attitude of pretending not to be bothered by humiliating experiences, is like convincing yourself you have the ability to dodge bullets and fly like a character in a Hollywood blockbuster. However we are all vulnerable, and recognition and acceptance of our vulnerabilities gives us needed courage in accepting life on life’s terms.
If you have been humiliated or shamed, call it for what it is, because pretending not to be bothered only sets you up to experience a repeat. When we are able to admit experiences that wound our egos, we set ourselves up for proper healing.
By healing I mean being able to acknowledge the source of the wounding, and learning the lesson you need to learn.
What are some healthy and unhealthy methods you have used to respond to feeling humiliated?
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.