01 Apr The Thread Runners
In therapy, I hear peoples’ narratives about their lives. It really is one of the most interesting parts of what I do and it is an honor to be trusted with these precious stories. One of the most difficult challenges people face is when the narrative of how they thought life was supposed to be or how life was supposed to go, turns out not to be true or has been changed by something catastrophic. There is a feeling of being lost and unmoored when what they were counting on can no longer be counted on. This includes an untimely death, an unexpected divorce, a debilitating disease, or just a part that didn’t go the way they expected.
Another challenge that people face in terms of their stories has to do with what I call the thread runners. Of course, this is a takeoff on the book/movie called The Maze Runner. Instead of running through a maze that slams shut at sundown, my thread runners are running a variety of storylines in their heads based on their current circumstances. So when a person is depressed or anxious, the stories they write of how life might go are based on the lens of depression or anxiety. Subsequently, that outlook can make the future look pretty grim. The problem is, of course, the storylines are not accurate predictions as much as they are reflections of the current state of mind. So in the anxious mind, the possible stories about the future are very anxious. In the depressed mind, the possible stories about the future are depressing.
Though it is very difficult to do, I work hard to convince these clients that what they are expecting is more a product of where they are than where they might be. Yes, it’s true that their vision might be the way life goes, especially if they focus on it too hard. That’s the problem, you see. The more you believe it’s true, the more you make it happen. So we take a lot of time in therapy talking about the possible stories that they are considering but also talking about alternative stories not so much based on anxiety or depression but based on other real (and more hopeful) possibilities.
Like many of the things I blog about, I really believe this is a common problem to us all; not just the clinically depressed or anxious. In a very broad sense, our mood is a lens through which we view the world. Many times, what we’re looking at is more a reflection of who we are, where we are, and how we are feeling than it is of the thing itself. I’ll bet that how you’re feeling right now has a bearing on how you think tomorrow’s going to go. That’s okay if you’re feeling good today but if you’re not, consider writing a different story; consider chasing a different thread. You have until sundown!