YOUR NARRATIVE IS THE KEY TO YOUR FUTURE
noun: narrative; plural noun: narratives
- a spoken or written account of connected events; a story.
Every one of us is a story—a series of connected events. That word—connected—is key, because it is human nature to avoid thinking about the events that are most stressful or painful or that simply seem inconvenient. And that deprives us of the immeasurable power that those very events would yield, were we to glean from them all the life lessons they hold.
No one does very well, in fact, trying to move on without the critical parts of his or her life story accessible to the conscious mind. Why is that? Well, imagine this scenario: You open a book to page 131, read through to page 261, then try to write the next three chapters. First of all, those next three chapters will lack consistency and authenticity, because the author (you) has been deprived of the main character’s backstory. Second, the author would naturally be vulnerable to feeling anxious and despondent and ill-equipped to pen the best chapters. He or she might rightly protest, “But I don’t know what happened from page one to one-hundred-thirty-one.” Exactly.
Now, consider this: What might those 131 pages contain? They might well include key insights into toxic relationships that led to needless self-doubt. They might include unexpected losses that made the hero of the story irrationally anxious that all could be lost at any time. They might also include wonderful gifts and talents that the main character left behind, thinking that they weren’t supported by parents or teachers or friends. And they might include the certain knowledge that it took real energy and courage and resiliency and creativity to get through some of the toughest pages and chapters of that story—power that could be tapped, again, once recognized and rekindled.
See, that word connected is critical because we are—each and every one of us—a story. And the most powerful version of that story is the non-fiction version. Wringing the fiction out of the narrative takes some work and some time, but it is well worth it, because it leaves a clear runway to reach new heights in life.
So, why do people avoid doing the work? They consciously or unconsciously worry it will be daunting. They think it is better to “let sleeping dogs lie.” They worry looking back is wasteful and that the future is the only horizon. And they could not be more wrong, on every score. Reclaiming one’s true self is the most important and most restorative work of a lifetime. Far from destabilizing one’s life, it reinforces the foundation and sets the stage to build the strongest, most expansive and most meaningful parts of one’s existence.
Dr. Keith Ablow