Do. You. is a guest column by Tasha Richardson a Public Ally for the National Runaway Safeline. She dreams of changing the world one thought…

Do. You. is a guest column by Tasha Richardson a Public Ally for the National Runaway Safeline. She dreams of changing the world one thought and positive interaction at a time.  She is in her third term of service with AmeriCorps and would love to dedicate her life to service in the years to come. 

Just in time for Mental Wellness Month (January 2014) “Do. You.” provides helpful tips on coping strategy, being more resilient, and working through problems. The first installment encourages us to look for solutions within ourselves, the second helps us to reclaim our mental space, and in this third installment, Tasha looks at the stories that we tell ourselves. 

We are all authors!  And just as any author, we have the creative license to decide what parts of our story to tell, and what parts to omit.  The truth is that life can be seen from a variety of perspectives–each just as real and valid as the next.

Let us return to the example of Tatiana from installment two of the Do.You. Series.  Tatiana could tell herself and others the following story:

“My life stinks!  I am unsupported at home!  I do all of the work and have to put up with my mother’s jerk of a boyfriend!  My mother is so selfish! She only cares about her boyfriend who she’s only known for three months!  I am the only one who is sacrificing–if it weren’t for me, everything would fall apart!”

Tatiana could earn a great deal of sympathy sharing her story.  Many people would even get angry or worked up on her behalf. In addition to the sympathy others would give her, Tatiana would get to feel self-righteous and justified in whatever actions she chooses to take in response to her situation: running away, telling her mom off, acting out against mom’s boyfriend, or resenting her other siblings. All of this may be comforting enough to make Tatiana feel as if she is actually getting what she wants, but it is misleading.

Not only is Tatiana mistaking inaction for action, she has also forgotten that she CHOOSES which stories get primacy in her life.  If Tatiana remembers that each story is just as valid and real as the other, she can choose a new, more empowering story.  While she may not get a chorus of clacking tongues that give her sympathy, justify her anger, or feed her self-righteous attitude, she may get much more from the bargain.

Namely, it may get her closer to a life she does want.  

Just as Tatiana told others without hesitation the above version of her story, she could tell a new one that could be just as real and more accurate as the previous one.  Consider the following story that Tatiana could tell:

“Three months ago, I was challenged to grow in ways that I never have imagined possible. My mom began dating this guy Ramón after being single for a while.  When she started dating again, she realized a piece of herself was missing that could only be filled by a man and not her kids.  I am really happy that my mom found someone who she could love.  I am also happy that I have a potential father figure in my life, since our dad died 3 years ago.  Since mom began dating Ramón, our relationship has changed in ways that perhaps neither of us has expected.  While there are some good things that have come of it, there are some things that I hope we can improve.  I realize that I felt threatened by Ramón and my mother’s relationship, and reacted by getting angry at them both and withdrawing.  I didn’t feel safe to tell my mother how I have been feeling in a way that could help her truly see what I was feeling.  I really want a better relationship with my mother, so I am willing to consider some new things that I could do to help my situation change.  I am also willing to try to see the positives that have come from this situation in addition to the things I would like to change.”

The above is just one of a myriad of new stories that Tatiana could have told to help remind herself that she has the power to create and recreate new worlds and realities for herself–even when the outer world has not changed.

Practical Questions to Ask when Rewriting Your Story for Tatiana and the Reader:

  1. What parts of the story haven’t I considered and may have left out?
  2. How might I be contributing to my current ‘problem’?
  3. What sources of support exist for me that I have not thought about?
  4. What are some good things that come from my current situation?
  5. Are there good things that the ‘offending’ party has been doing that I may have overlooked?