Feeling anxious makes you feel bad about yourself sometimes. But narrative therapy shows us that many things are not as they seem.
During the struggles of mental illness, I fought for my self-esteem and worth, and I’m still fighting. And when I say “fought”, I mean, kicking and screaming inside my head. I also mean feeling like I was some monster for being different. I am no monster, and it took years to discover that.
The thing is, there are ways to separate yourself from your problem, and that’s what I had to do. One of those ways was the use of narrative therapy.
What Is Narrative Therapy?
You know, most people have never heard of this type of therapy. I know I hadn’t. Not until now. Anyway, narrative therapy does a couple of things to help you get past anxiety and other mental issues.
Narrative therapy was developed by a couple of therapists from New Zealand, Michael White and David Epston. Their basic beliefs in this concept were that most individuals aren’t bad, they make mistakes or have problems. There is no one to blame – there is no-one to blame, not even themselves. The therapist doesn’t seem themselves as better than the patient. They speak at the same level.
Now, this doesn’t cover the fact that some people really do choose to be negative individuals and purposely do bad things. Yes, they do.
But for those who are trying, and keep making the same mistakes, especially through anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, or any other issues of this nature, narrative work seems to help them. It seems they’ve labeled themselves as anxiety instead of looking out at their anxiety as a separate thing.
How to use narrative therapy to heal yourself:
1. Unearthing the real problem
In so many situations, problems are vague. Anxiety can become a full force at the simple mention of a break-up, or a disagreement among family members. With therapy that focuses on a narrative – rather a story, problems can be solved a bit easier.
It’s like the term, “getting to the root of the problem”. Which, honestly, is exactly what it is. Before you can fix a problem or stop a process which could be a mistake, you have to remove the veil of uncertainty and find out what started the issues and how the problem progressed.
2. Change how you see your issues
So, let’s say you have anxiety. I bet you usually say things like, “ I hate having anxiety”, or “I’m such an anxious person” This is the opposite of what you should be doing.
Instead of seeing anxiety as something you have, visualize it as something that has an effect on you. You are not your problem. You are a human being, as good as any who just happens to deal with anxious feelings at times. Practice seeing anxiety as external.
3. See it as a battle
One narrative trick which serves as great therapy is the battle technique. When you’re going through something stressful and you make it out the other side, then cheer for your win! You have won the battle, and you’ve learned another way to combat things like anxiety.
Keep a record of all the ways you win your battle, and you won’t forget these things. You can also work on other weapons to use against your problems.
4. Using existentialism
When dealing with anxiety, you see the world as having a definite meaning to you. It does, in a way, and yet, it doesn’t have to either. What is the real meaning? What point is there really in what we’re doing and what we’re not doing?
If we fail, yes, we may hurt people or we may feel hurt within, but in the big picture, the meaning is what you want it to be. If you’re having anxious feelings, see the world as a different place, see your situation as a new one.
Your existence is just that, an existence, and this can be driven in any direction, helping you alleviate the anxiety of where you presently are.
5. Accept that you have negative feelings
Okay, there is one certainty that cannot be changed, and narrative therapy can help you deal with this. Yes, you feel anxious sometimes, yes, you lose your temper, but acknowledging the fact can help you see ways to make things better or learn to harness your self-control.
With anxiety, panic attacks may be extremely difficult to control, sometimes uncontrollable alone, but acceptance allows you to find ways to improve by yourself or get the support that is needed.
6. Name your problem
If you have anxiety, give it a name like “jitters”, or “flutters”. You may have to give it a darker name like “darkness” or “the monkey on my back”. Hey, I think that one is kind of funny, and can even help you laugh a bit during the suffering.
But basically, how this name-calling works is that it makes sure you never identify with your anxiety or other problems again. It makes sure you see those things as bothersome pests and you sometimes battle and defeat. It’s like a story of success, like a narrative and a therapy that really works.
What will your story be?
No one with an anxiety disorder feels okay about it. That is until they’ve found a successful way of dealing with all the symptoms. I think the worst part of anxiety is the lost time experienced when were so busy just staying calm – when we’re missing recitals, games, appointments, and other important things.
It’s also harsh when we refuse to invite people over, go to parties or even take forever to actually make new friends. Anxiety is, for me, my “monster”, and I hate it. It’s not me, and I will continue to try new ways to break out of its grip. Using these narrative therapies can help you too. Let’s try them together.
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