Whether we realize it or not, most of us look at life through the lens of story. And deep down, many of us believe our story is pretty much over. We have life-yet-to-live, but we feel the writing is already on the wall.
One of the first goals of psychotherapy is to recover a sense of hope for our lives. If hope can be reclaimed in the early sessions of therapy, the goals of the therapy are more likely to be achieved.
In my psychotherapy practice, I will often ask new clients to engage in an exercise, in which they view their lives through the lens of story:
- Imagine your life as a movie.
- Imagine the painful experiences in your life as the early scenes of the movie, developing the character for the audience, showing the viewers what must be overcome and how the character must change in order to do so.
- Imagine your character’s decision to begin therapy as a pivotal point in the plot, a turning point for your character.
- In your favorite kind of movie—the kind that moves you and inspires you—what would your character do next? What must they overcome? How would they do it? How would you want the character to be shaped and formed in the process?
- Write out a movie proposal, using your experiences as the plot development and yourself as the main character. Make the script as detailed as you would like, but write a coherent story about how your character overcomes what you have been through.
Sometimes, when we are close to the pain, it’s hard to step outside of it and imagine a different story for ourselves. But by casting ourselves as a character in our own story, we may experience a more objective reaction to our circumstances, and we may be inspired to become the kind of character we would love and cheer for.
The bottom-line of the exercise is this: in a good movie, all the junk that brought you to therapy would happen in the opening scenes. The therapy scene would be the beginning of an inspiring movie, not the end of it.
And you get to decide how the rest of your story is written.
Tuesday Tip Disclaimer: The Tuesday Tip is not professional advice. It should be read as you would read a “self-help” book. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor, who can become more intimately familiar with your specific situation. Counselors can be located through your insurance network or through your state psychological association website.
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