The dangling narrative


Written by Helen Villiers

When we are small children, we hear messages (both positive and negative) about ourselves and the world that we internalise and create core beliefs, or our narrative, from.

We then spend the rest of our lives looking for things that confirm these narratives, and as a result we ignore the things that contradict that narrative. We do this because it makes us feel safe by confirming what we believe in the world.

In practice it might look like the Derren Brown ‘experiment’ with the man who thought he was unlucky.

Because he thought he was unlucky, he ignored all the moments he had to be lucky.

The dangling narratives are the narratives that surround us each and every day. We choose which ones to pull and weave into our own narratives the things that confirm our bias.

Which is all fine and dandy, until you realise that your narrative is not actually that helpful.

If you have grown up with people who thought you were amazing, and taught you how valuable and loved you are, you are only going to see the narratives that reinforce that. But if you were raised by people who criticised, belittled and rejected you, you are only going to see narratives that reinforce that.

This means, that any time anyone does something in line with your core beliefs about yourself, you are going to weave that experience into your narrative, confirming your belief.

So what are you weaving, and what do you leave dangling? Do you ignore compliments, praise and recognition?

Do you accept criticism, devaluing and judgement?

Start asking yourself about your core beliefs. If you think you are lazy, why? What evidence is there to prove it? What evidence is there to disprove it? Where’s the weight and had you believed it before?

For example, using lazy, I might look at my house which is in a constant state of disarray at the moment and think, yep, I’m so lazy for not tidying up. But to counter that, I look at all the things I have done/looked after. Work, family, friends, food, pooch, volunteer group, counselling service.

Can I really call myself lazy when I take all those things into consideration? No. So I can ignore the dangling narrative of the house mess as being confirmation I’m lazy, and pull and weave into my narrative all the examples of me not being lazy.

Because I am anything but, I’m just not constantly tidying (seriously, what’s the point at the moment!??!!)
So here’s the challenge, maybe jot down all the comments people have said to you today, or all the things you’ve thought about yourself today. And then check for evidence, and the reason you think it. And then look for the contradictions of your belief. How true is it?

Stay safe and well my friends, and take one minute at a time if you need to. This world is in a state of transition and unpredictableness and it’s okay to be feeling the destabilising response to that.

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