There’s always a story inside my head. And in yours. It’s how the brain makes sense of the information it receives. The narrative we create inside our heads colors every new input and shapes our communication.
I once had a leader whose saccharine facade and passive-aggressive nature slowly created a toxic work environment and eroded a healthy organizational culture. He triangulated communication and siloed team members, so he controlled all the narratives. But he was so nice…
Like any effective gaslighter, he shaped an environment where the team constantly questioned our its own sanity. He would ignore healthy boundaries. He would repeatedly say, “What you don’t understand is…” setting himself up as an expert who could not be wrong or questioned. Strategy, tactics, goals, decisions all revolved around protecting him and his reputation.
Like the boiling frog fable, his words slowly became my internal story: I cannot be trusted.
Even after leaving the organization, his words echoed in my head. In a new position, I was jumpy, timid, and anxious, filtering new experiences through this implanted story. I didn’t recognize myself. My internal dialogue had his tone of voice.
With my therapist, I was so frustrated, “Why can’t I get his voice out of my head?”
“Because he trained you.” She threw ice into the boiling pot.
In that moment, all these thoughts raced through my mind, almost simultaneously:
Oh, my word. He did.
How did I let that happen?
That story is a lie.
I can retrain my thoughts.
I can live in a new story.
Sometimes the false story, “I cannot be trusted,” makes an appearance in my mind. Now, I can pause, notice, and dismiss it for the lie that it is.
I don’t live in that story anymore.
A few weeks ago, I shared my in-the-moment process of noticing the story I’m telling myself. FOCUS or SNAP
What stories are you telling yourself? Are they true?