Do you ever feel like a prisoner of your own past? You are not alone. Many people feel stuck when they start thinking about the things they have done, things they left undone, or even things that have been done to them. This feeling of getting stuck create the cycle of regrets, fears, and blame, and getting caught in this cycle only leads to continued self sabotage, as well as continued negative perceptions of ourselves, and our future.
By examining the lens in which we see the world and make sense of events that have happened, we can either find meaning to heal, or like a hamster on the wheel we might feel like we are just spinning around and around. These lenses are called cognitive distortions. The first step towards getting off the hamster wheel is to identify which distortions we struggle with, then and only then can we take a backwards look at why we developed these thoughts in the first place, in order to challenge and change what and how we do things in the present.
Luckily for many this is the foundation toward Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the goal is to examine how one’s thoughts affect our emotions and in turn connect to our behaviors. If we wish to see a change in our present at times we need to look back on our past to understand the 5W’s (who, what, where, why and how). With this awareness we can look at means to create meaning.
Like any good book, our stories already have chapters written, the chapters of today and chapters unknown. Developed by Michael White and David Epston, Narrative therapy is a modality of therapy that aims to separate the problem and the individual. In this process one can encourage gradual behavioral changes by looking at their own skill sets to minimize the problems and create control in their everyday lives. Our personal experiences are given meaning and helps the individual manage to deal with healing from our pasts and moving forward as the active protagonist in our own lives.
How To Get Off The Hamster Wheel:
1. Acknowledge and write out the events/people that have impacted you or you feel you impacted
2. Understand the power of the domino effects, do to that event what positive affects can you see in your present chapters of life
3. Develop a sense of compassion for others and compassion for yourself, by expressing your story, validating your feelings and encouraging a change you can choose to forgive the past and focus on the future
4. Now with your eyes set on the future, how can you take control of your story. Where do you want to be, how do you want to be remembered, and what steps can you take to be that person you are imagining. The best way to do this step is with SMART goal, setting Specific, Measurable, Realistic, and Timely goals.
5. Find an accountability partner to share your goals with and now take it one day at a time, remembering that your past affects you but does not have to define you or determine your future.