How Do Thoughts Become Story?

You’ve probably heard the statement, “If you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans.” A while ago, I began this blog, and planned to post regularly. And then God laughed. Plans fell into disarray, the victim of life events. So, here we go again!

In a recent post, Transforming Our Stories One Thought at a Time, neuropsychologist Dr. Diane Engelman discusses changing one’s thinking. She writes of it as a way to grow and change our personal stories. But how do those random thoughts – most below the level of consciousness – convert themselves into stories we tell ourselves or others?

As thoughts and experiences occur, our brains compare new ones with those already in memory. Neuroscience tells us that this comparison happens in milliseconds (Haven, 2007). Our minds then create meaning from the combination of past and present data. And the brain’s preferred method of making meaning is to craft themedical ilness, mental illness, healing by writing experiences into story.

After a recent meeting with a colleague, I felt overwhelmed by items on our to-do list.

  • The feelings that occurred to me were panic and a bit of insecurity.
  • The thoughts – running through my mind in seconds – were, “I can’t do all this, but I have to do all this, well, then, it will take the time it takes, and that has to be OK.”

As I put on my coat, I said, “All of life is a marathon, but I treat it as a sprint. I’ve got to change that.” The story I had created was of me as a runner: I knew the projects taken together formed a “marathon” of at least 26 miles and requiring sustainable effort. But I was pushing myself to “sprint” at full speed as if the distance were much shorter.

When life gets tough – illness, grief, anxiety, depression, etc – it’s not always simple to catch ourselves in those thoughts or in the act of converting them into story. But the more we are conscious of the process, the more we recognize the thoughts, words, and stories we create.

My next post will discuss some methods for tracking those thoughts.

Haven, Kendall (2007) Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story

Note: In this post, the author, JB Allyn, is not directly or indirectly giving psychological or medical advice. Nor is she prescribing the use of any technique to treat medical, physical, or emotional problems. The author intends only to offer information of a general nature that may assist you in seeking personal growth. If you choose to use any of the information the author presents, she assumes no responsibility for your choices or actions.

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