More specifically, your personal life story versus how you structure your story in your mind. Can you guess which one usually wins? Your story – to your determinant.
Your story consists of life experiences and the emotions it generates. Your structure is how you code the story in your mind. Herein lies the secret to graceful change. I might it even call it the suppressed secret to change.
Traditional therapy relishes the story. Recounting your ever expanding story makes for an excellent income for your counselor. After all, the story that grows each week. It can take years to process with your therapist. It gets worse. I know therapists who, after years of work, may feel you’ve adequately processed this life’s story. They then recommend examining a past life! You get the drift. Seeing a therapist that believes in processing your story can turn into the never-ending story!
Are these counselors well intentioned? Do they believe in what they are doing? Sure. But I think this is the wrong question. A more elegant question is whether or not this endless rehashing, reliving of your life experience is helpful to you? Is it helping you gracefully change, grow and evolve? Often not. Usually not. Being able to recite or parrot all the insights you’ve gleaned from your therapist does not equate to change. It can actually reinforce your issues, the parts of your story holding you back in life.
Am I exaggerating? Sadly no. I have all the traditional training and began my career at a mental health center. I quickly learned the trade secret. It rarely worked. Traditional counseling equates patient insight with success. This insight bias, while pleasing the counselor, is not, in and of itself, effective to instigate lasting change for the patient.
Intervening at the level of structure is the key to gracefully evolve. An example: trauma victims (physical, sexual abuse, rape, PTSD…) tend to store or structure the experience in a specific way. By and large, the memories tend to be stored or structured in vibrant color, up close, large, and extremely vivid. These images tend to be easily triggered. Now this is only a skeleton key or generality. It’s my job to ascertain how each individual specifically and uniquely codes the traumatic incidents. Once determined, I’m able to successfully re-pattern how these experience are stored or structured.
What’s the advantage of this re-patterning? The traumatic incidents lose their emotional gravity. This is big. Yes, the client still knows what happened. Yes, they still keep their learning’s from the incidents. But, the strong negative emotional pull has been diluted. Significantly diluted. Another of my blog posts, Trauma, Once Is Enough, expands upon this.
Think of it. You can be in charge of your experience. If not what occurred in the past, you can certainly be in charge of how you code it, how you structure it neurologically. How liberating! You are back in the drivers seat. You are empowered. A bonus: this positive restructuring tends to ripple out to other experiences in similar categories. How great is that?!
There’s more. This restructuring can be done without having to share all the traumatic details with the councilor. Being a male, I think this option is especially relevant for females who have been sexually assaulted. Their sharing the details is optional. How beautiful and respectful.
Is your story, then, to be held in contempt? No, a strong no. Your life experience is sacred. Honor it. Respect it. But don’t get sucked into it or it will pull you in like a black hole. Know that your are much more than your story.
Your job is to respect your life story while knowing you are more than you story. So much more. My job is to respect your life story and facilitate how you structure any parts of the story that aren’t serving you.