How to Rewrite Your History (or How to Happily Live in Denial)
Did you know there are techniques that can help you reframe past experiences? Have an embarrassing memory of getting drunk at the office holiday party? Revise it. What about the time you were texting and drove into that tree? Reshape it. And that time you were dumped and keyed the SOB’s car? This too can be re-tweaked to your advantage.
It’s called narrative identity theory and it has to do with the stories we tell ourselves. “There is something intrinsic in our drive to explain, order, and extract meaning from the chaos,” so says Psychology Today.
Why do we do this? Simple. To prevent a downward spiral that can occur when we’re forced to face that little thing called “the truth.” Who wants to do that? So grab a pen and paper or your keyboard and let’s get started recreating the past.
Step 1: Write this sentence: “I’m so glad [traumatic event] happened to me because it has taught me something.” Such as: you have now set a two-drink limit at future office parties. So it’s a good thing this happened! And the car wreck? You now have Blue Tooth. As for that ex who wasn’t worth your time in the first place, you have now learned how to spot red flags a tad sooner.
Step 2: Write this sentence: “This event has shaped me into the special person I am today in the following ways.” At this point, you want to resist the temptation to blame others, but let’s face it, you didn’t get here on your own, someone else brought you that other drink, texted you while you were driving, or threw themselves at your boyfriend. But that’s not the point of the exercise. The point is to focus on how this made you a better person. Using our three examples, here are ways you may have become a better person:
A: After your embarrassing night at the office holiday of making out with some random IT guy and twerking for your boss, you found a new job that has allowed you to push the restart button.
B: After wrecking your car into a tree, you “reframed” your story to the insurance company about a avoiding a dog, and long story short, the new car you are driving suits your personality better.
C: After keying your cheating ex’s sports car, and denying it to police, you learned to look for future surveillance cameras should this come up again in your future.
Experts agree, it’s important to give the crisis some time to pass so you are able to reflect on the event with a proper amount of perspective. A few hours should suffice to realize you have effed up your life and had better straighten it out quickly before you find yourself in rehab or jail (again).