Narrative Therapy

Do Not Let One Bad Data Point Ruin The New Narrative

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Whatever we place under the microscope gets larger. Or at least it seems to get larger; in actuality it remains the exact same size it always was. What this has to do with narrative therapy is that when people are in the process of constructing and living out new, more desirable, more productive life narratives they’re pretty much guaranteed to falter once in a while, to slide back into the old ways of doing things, the unwanted ways they’re trying to leave behind.

It’s all too easy for various members in the community to zero in on a bad data point and sort of blow it out of proportion, to use it as confirmation that the old narrative is the real narrative and to simultaneously ignore or minimize all of those good data points that have been occurring.

So the goal, whether you’re the person attempting to live out a new preferred life narrative or you’re in a supporting role helping someone bring about that new preferred life narrative, has got to be to refuse to let one bad data point infect the new narrative. You’ve got to refuse that compelling siren song, to categorize what goes wrong as an exception to the new rule not as further proof of the old rule.

Because setbacks are inevitable. We’re asking the impossible of ourselves or others to demand a flawless, perfect transition where none of those old unwanted behaviors ever show up again. That’s wishful thinking, not reality. The reality is that we’re all flawed human beings who screw up sometimes. Often those of us who get away with it have a community that considers setbacks to be exceptions not rules and those of us who don’t get away with it have a community that considers setbacks to be rules not exceptions. As long as we or others are working hard and tending towards growth and positive change the best way to support that growth process is to notice and encourage all of the good not to harp on the mistakes.