How to Identify and Change the Negative Stories You Tell Yourself
By Kris Hallbom
“The most important story we will ever tell about ourselves, is the story that we tell to ourselves.”
– Jim Loehr, Ed.D.
Every day you are telling yourself a story about what you are experiencing throughout your life. There is a constant stream of words flowing under your breath about what you are seeing outside of yourself, and how you feel on the inside.
These stories drive your thoughts, they drive your feelings, they drive your perceptions of yourself, and they drive what is possible for you in life. These stories can also influence your level of success in your career, as well the relationships with those around you…
For example, my husband Tim and I have a friend who was going through a terrible divorce and his 16-year-old son quit speaking to him. He was living with his mother at the time and quit speaking to his Dad, because he was angry with him for leaving his mother.
Our friend was devastated by this and kept saying, “My son won’t speak to me because he hates me for leaving his mother.” This was the story he told himself over and over in his head. This was also the story we always heard every time we were with him over the next several years.
Then one day we called our friend, and he couldn’t speak to us because he was in the car with his son (who was now 19 years old) and they were going out for a special dinner celebration. Apparently, the son had finally started speaking to him again and their relationship was back to normal. The next time we saw our friend, we asked him how he got his son to start speaking to him again, and he replied, “I changed the story I was telling myself about him.”
What is an Unconscious Story?
An unconscious story is an internal narrative that you make up about something that is going on in your life. It is your unconscious way of labeling what you are experiencing on a daily basis.
For example, I had a coaching client who was depressed with his life and couldn’t see a future for himself. During one of our sessions he told me that every time he went to work, he would say to himself, “I hate my job, I hate my job, I hate my job.”
It’s no wonder he was miserable all the time. He had been saying this to himself day in and day out– and he didn’t even realize he was saying it. At the time when he told me he hated his job; it was more like a passing comment rather than being the key to unlocking the mystery of his depression.
Once he realized he had been telling himself this negative story, he changed the story to, “I deserve to have work I love to do, and I am paid well for doing it!” Shortly thereafter, he quit his job and started a new career doing something entirely different from his previous job – and his depression completely disappeared.
Another interesting aspect about unconscious stories is they can be imbedded with beliefs about who you are in the world, and what is possible for you to achieve in life. Some of these stories can be super positive and some of them can be profoundly negative. Many years ago, I had a colleague who told herself over and over again that she would get cancer one day and die of it. She even collected articles on how to deal with having cancer once you are diagnosed. Sadly, she was diagnosed with fourth stage colon cancer and died at the age of 52.
So not only did she have an unconscious story about her health, she also developed a belief she would die early – and that belief became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Thus, your unconscious stories can influence every area of your life including your health, your relationships, your career and your overall identity.
How to Identify Negative Unconscious Stories
One way to identify an unconscious story is to start noticing your internal talk, your internal dialog and what you are saying to yourself throughout the day. Then notice anything negative that you are saying to yourself over and over again, and write it down.
Interestingly, most people don’t realize they are constantly having a conversation with themselves. Nor do they realize that these unconscious conversations are driving their daily experience, their perception of themselves, and their overall feelings about their lives – such as the man who hated his job.
Another way to identify a negative unconscious story is to think about a situation in your life that you are perpetually unhappy about, or that you feel bad about in general. Typically, this kind of story will have an ongoing quality to it and the person can never stop thinking about it – such as the father whose son quit speaking to him.
There are Five Questions You Can Ask to Identify a Negative Unconscious Story:
- Think about an ongoing problem or situation that is bothering you, and notice what you are telling yourself about it. What is your story?
- Notice what words or phrases you are saying over and over again, when you think your problem?
- What is the impact of telling yourself the story, and how does it affect you emotionally?
- If you were going to sum up your story into a short phrase, what would it be?
- What is the positive purpose of your story, what do you get from telling yourself this story?
All Unconscious Stories Have a Positive Purpose Behind Them
Once you identify the story and put it into a short phrase, then the next step is to identify the positive purpose of the story. This is an important piece because the positive purpose is what is holding the story in place, and it needs to be honored and acknowledged. For example, I worked with 45-year-old women who was unhappy in her job because she didn’t think her co-workers took her seriously. Too make matters worse, she was a little bit overweight and extremely self-conscious of how she looked.
During one of our sessions she was talking about her job and proclaimed, “I helped solve a major problem at the office today, I am such a big girl for doing that. I also did a good job on an important project and I am such a big girl for finishing it!”
My very first thought was it’s no wonder her co-workers didn’t take her seriously, because she didn’t take herself seriously. She had an unconscious story running in her mind that she is such a big girl. It also made sense to me why she had always been overweight.
I asked her what the positive intention was behind her story of being such a big girl, and she said that it gave her sense of accomplishment and capability whenever she told herself that. However, she quickly realized she was also negatively programming her unconscious mind every time she told herself that.
So, she thought about the positive intention behind her old story and changed it to, “I am a thin, attractive and capable woman.” She then told herself this new story day in and day out.
Interestingly, she emailed me a few months later and told me that her co-workers were treating her with more respect. She had also dropped an entire size in her pants, and was finally at the weight she had wanted to be at!
How to Change Your Unconscious Story with Dynamic Spin Release™
- Think of a problem or an issue going on in your life. Ask, what is the story behind the problem. Use a short phrase to sum up the story.
- Identify the positive purpose of the story. Ask, what are you trying to get for yourself by telling yourself that story, what is the positive intention behind it?
- Now identify any leftover negative feelings associated with the story you’ve been telling yourself. Then notice where are you feeling those feelings in your body. (More often than not, you will feel them in your head, heart, chest or stomach area.)
- Imagine removing the negative feelings out of your body and place them at a distance in front of you, and identify what they look like.
- Now move the image of the negative feelings twice as far away, and drain all the color out of it– and dim the brightness down.
- Determine which way the image is spinning. Is it spinning clockwise or counterclockwise? If it appears motionless then ask, “If it was spinning, which direction would it be spinning in?”
- Reverse the direction of the spin and get it going faster and faster– and while you are doing this, see the image of your negative feelings spinning down into a tiny dot floating in space.
- Then allow the dot to quickly transform into a metaphorical symbol or gift that feels positive to you. Once the new symbol or gift appears, find out what the positive message of it is.
- Now bring the positive symbol or gift back into your body and notice all of your new feelings and understandings about your old story.
- Create a new story that honors the positive message of the symbol or gift, and the positive purpose of the story. Once you have created the new story, then write it down and say it to yourself throughout the day.
- Jim Loehr, The Power of Story: Rewrite Your Destiny in Business and in Life. (New York, NY, Free Press – A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 2007).
- Tim and Kris Hallbom, Dynamic Spin Release™: An Introduction to the DSR™ Approach DVD series (Bringforth Publishing, Salt Lake City, UT, 2012).
- Tim and Kris Hallbom are the co-developers of Dynamic Spin Release™. For more information, visit their website at: www.dynamicspinrelease.com.
Kristine Hallbom is an internationally recognized NLP trainer, author and professional coach. She is the co-founder of the NLP Coaching Institute and has been actively working in the field of NLP for over 30 years. She is also the co-creator of the WealthyMind™ Program, which has been taught to live audiences in over 20 countries and has helped thousands of people create more of what they want in their lives.
She is the co-author of the book, Powerful Questions and Techniques for Coaches and Therapists, and has published numerous articles on wealth consciousness, NLP Coaching and systems thinking for a variety of psychology journals and magazines.
Kris can be reached through her website at: www.krishallbom.com
© 2020 Kristine Hallbom
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