This column is the third in a series about changing your life by looking at it as a story. Learn more about this technique in Kim Schneiderman’s new book, “Step Out of Your Story,” available now.
In the movie “Stranger Than Fiction,” Harold Crick is a robotic IRS agent who begins to question his mundane existence when he hears a mysterious voice narrating his life and foreshadowing his death. When he discovers that he is not the master of his own destiny, but rather a fictional character, Crick tracks down his author and convinces her to rewrite the ending of his story.
While both strange and fictional, Crick’s journey speaks to our capacity to question the roles we play and the scripts we’ve been given and reclaim our personal narratives.
Sometimes the roles we play and their societally prescribed scripts don’t really serve us. Yet we keep acting them out simply because we’ve become accustomed to the motions and memorized our lines.
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Often, we come by these roles and scripts honestly enough. According to behavioral psychology, we begin to assimilate scripts as young children, when we are most susceptible to messages both from our life as well as the fictional examples in movies and television shows. Many of us continue to be influenced throughout our lifetimes by scripts without questioning whether they make sense, who’s really writing them and whether or not we’re right for the roles we’ve taken on.
To find out whether you’re playing the right parts, it’s time to interrogate your screenwriter.
Familial expectations and societal values may lead us to choose a career, lifestyle or partner that is out of sync with our authentic talents and interests. If you’re not the one calling the shots, then pull a Harold Crick and convince the powers that be to let you change the plot.
A poorly written script of internalized negative messages can be just as harmful. If your internal monologue consists of lines like, “You’ll never succeed at anything,” or “I must do everything perfectly or not at all,” it may prevent you from stepping into and mastering roles that highlight your natural abilities.
Chucking out the script and starting over can be daunting, especially if you’re several chapters (or maybe even halfway) through your story. But it’s never too late — otherwise, you risk living a fictitious life that will leave you feeling like a stranger to your authentic self.
Kim Schneiderman, MSW, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and the author of “Step Out of Your Story: Writing Exercises to Reframe and Transform Your Life.” Email Kim your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.