There’s a narrative we create in our heads that drives our behavior. For individuals that struggle with a more generalized version of anxiety, that narrative is one that suggests a negative future. The narrative is treated as fact and causes individuals to engage in behaviors that are maladaptive. That is, they behave in ways that aren’t extremely helpful to their success and growth. For example, anxiety might say, “Don’t apply for that job, you’ll never get it,” “You don’t deserve your partner, as soon as someone better comes along they’re going to leave you,” or “You know they don’t like you, so why would you go to that party?”
It convinces you that those thoughts are based in fact, that is, that there’s evidence to support the narrative. In fact, there’s no real evidence to support what our inner bullies tell us. The reason our inner bullies are successful at getting us to believe what it tells us is because it uses real information and changes the meaning of it to convince us it’s true. Therefore, events that are benign evolve into factual evidence to support the negative narrative. An example of this might be if my inner bully tells me that I am a terrible therapist and not really helpful to my clients. When I get an e-mail from a client indicating that they’ll need to cancel their upcoming session and will get back to me about rescheduling, my inner bully uses that cancellation as evidence to support that I’m a terrible therapist. My behavior turns into panic that I am going to lose all my clients and will be out of business in a week. What my inner bully doesn’t allow me to hear is that this client has cancelled before and rescheduled, and that this client has been coming to therapy consistently for over a year.
It’s important that we don’t allow our negative narratives to go unchecked. We have to force ourselves to see past the tricks of the inner bully and recognize that there’s more evidence to support a more favorable view or ourselves and the future, than one that is negative. When working with someone I am constantly challenging their irrational beliefs and replacing them with ones that are more rational. As a result we often create an “Evidence Sheet”. This is a tool that lists the evidence that we have uncovered together, to discredit the inner bully. It is used to help us successfully debate our inner bullies so that we can prevent our narrative from becoming overwhelmingly negative.
To begin rewriting your narrative click here.