Stories We Live By

By Marla ChalnickVon-Burg_Life-Story copy

My best friend gives me a subscription to Real Simple magazine every year. I mostly browse through and read the recipes before tossing it in the recycling! This month I noticed an article on Telling Your Life Story. This is a favorite topic of mine. I am always on the lookout for the benefits of the stories we tell ourselves and others and the importance of the words we choose.

The author of this article, Jenifer Lindley believes that we naturally think of our lives as stories. Changing the way, you tell your story can help you weather the plot twists that come your way.

Dr. Jonathan Adler believes stories are how we make sense of our lives.

As we describe our narrative, we can hold on to the important parts, filter out the trivial, and find a meaningful pattern in it all. Like an editor, our brains pull out significant conflicts, important characters and turning points to shape our sense of who we are. You are both the main character of your story and the narrator of your life. You may not have control over all your circumstances, but you can choose how to tell the story.

You may be a person who describes the most deflating interpretation of your circumstances. Researchers at Northwestern University interviewed hundreds of people to learn their life stories. They found that individuals who weave ‘contamination stories’, score lower on levels of well-being than those who tell “redemption stories” that emphasize the silver lining.

The field of ‘narrative psychology’ is growing and researchers and therapists are finding practical, do-it-now ways you can tweak your own inner stories. Such edits can help you become more resilient, have better relationships and make better decisions. I’ll share specific, useful ideas about how you can fine-tune your story in my next blog.  Please stay tuned!



2 thoughts on “Stories We Live By

  1. For decades I’ve been amazed by the power of the stories parents tell their children about the kids’ struggles. Those who hear stories, often using a made up character with similar enough characteristics that even the very young child relates, with the current developmental struggle (whyever did we used to consider these struggles “failure?!”)withi a triumphant end, bolster confidence, perceived strength, and real world persistence and triumphs in the face of adversity. Now we’re old enough to tell ourselves these stories, and it works! ;=)


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