Human beings are at heart story-telling beings. We tell stories about the world, about ourselves, about our past and about our future. Some of these stories are told collectively whilst a big chunk of it is our private internal narratives. We do this as a way to create order and structure in a seemingly chaotic world so that we can function in this world.
Sometimes though our internal narratives can become our shackles and haunt us incessantly. Think in terms of the well-known mental health concerns in terms of problems with our narrative shackles and you would see what I mean; depression – stories of shame, guilt, regret and the past. Anxiety – stories about an uncertain, catastrophic future. Anger – a narrative about expectations being frustrated and boundaries being breached.
Of course, we can try to deal with these problems by meeting the unmet needs that underpin these narratives. However, sometimes, we can no do anything to meet these needs despite our best efforts or the narratives remain incessant even when the objective problems have been solved. Then what can we do about these stories? Fighting or ignoring our thoughts may provide short-term relief, but seldom does this produce longer-term peace of mind.
I would like to suggest that you try the following as an alternative method to reclaim your mind from your internal stories:
1. List down the biggest, most emotionally-evoking stories on paper. Summarize each them into short-sentences.
2. Use an app and record these sentences as a sound file.
3. Play this file on loop over and over again.
4. As you listen to the loop, allow yourself to feel comfortable. Do not avoid it (i.e. don’t switch it off, don't distract yourself, don’t reassure yourself) and allow yourself to feel the full force of the discomfort associated with the story
5. After some time, you would start to feel that the words are just empty sounds and no longer have an impact on you.
This is in essence, an exposure therapy exercise applied to your internal narratives. Try this on for size and see if it helps to reduce the intensity and frequency of these narrative shackles.