Using Positive Narrative to Climb out of a Mental Sinkhole

It’s not difficult to think of times when we’re at our worst. They seem to stick in our minds like old school glue. The kind in the brown bottle with the rubber tip that develops crystals on top.

Our minds are designed to notice the negative. The bad. It’s not surprising that many of us are super critical about ourselves, often expecting perfection. The kind of perfection we’d never expect from our friends.

When we get stuck on this channel it can be hard to change. We seem mesmerized by the action.

Just as we focus on the negative narrative, we can also create a positive narrative of our story. If you’re going to focus your thoughts they might as well be ones that serve you best and move you forward in a positive way.
I used this tool one time to draw myself out of a mental sinkhole I had gotten into.

My downward spiral started with an email

It was a negative feedback loop that started over a 48-hour period. I went from feeling OK to Yikes! I must be a Cotton-headed Ninnymuggins!

It all started when I received a scathing email from a family member of a friend who I was trying to help. He had made a few incorrect assumptions about my intentions and motives. With little background about the situation and without asking questions for clarification he made sweeping judgments that completely took me by surprise. I was in shock.

He was so off base that I dismissed it. Or tried to. But it felt so hurtful. I felt attacked.

I was processing it through journaling when the second wave hit. Wham! Another one.

And again

I was speaking to my family members about something fairly insignificant. I think it was the dishes or vacuuming or something like that. Again, the comment made was an incorrect assumption of my intentions. What was going on here? Why is this happening?

I thought I knew what was going on. I was stressed. And when I’m stressed or tired I can come across as blunt and too direct. I know this and I try to curb it whenever possible. But it didn’t work that way this time. My intentions were positive but my delivery lacked.

One more for good measure

And then the last sucker punch. I was asked to complete a personality assessment survey. I did the survey right after receiving the scathing email so I was not in my best emotional space. When I received the results, they came with a warning “you may not like what you see”.

I skimmed through the thick report and paused at the “potential weaknesses” page. Of course. It’s what we do. And then the “how to best approach this individual” page. The comments there related to stuff I had been working on over the years.

I thought I had made great strides in improving my EQ. But I felt like I had just walked out of my boss’ office with a big ‘needs improvement’ stamp on my forehead.

Sad stick woman with black clouds over her head. Raining on her.
Stuck in a mental sinkhole. Drawing by Susan Kuz.

I had hit a new low. Sunk a few floors down over the course of a couple of days. I was now in the sub-basement.
Even with all that I know about positive psychology I let myself stay there for a couple of WEEKS! In that low, pitiful, victim place where I ruminated for a while.

As I stayed there it became harder and harder to move myself out. Wowww! The Red River gumbo mud was getting stickier and my rubber boots were getting good and stuck in the place of self-wallowing.

It was time to act and I decided to write a story about Me at My Best.

This tool is used to shift our focus to our past successes and help us see ourselves more clearly. We can more easily recognize our strengths and positive attributes. Here’s how it works.

Creating a new, positive narrative

Think of a time when you were at your very best. Maybe you were facing a particularly difficult situation. Or maybe it was already positive and you made it even better. You were feeling authentic and energized. Feeling proud and happy to be alive.

  • Develop a story about this experience.
  • Write about the facts and the events. Write about your strengths and values.
  • What happened? What was your role? What did you do that was successful or useful to someone? What kind of feelings did you experience?
  • Create a beginning, a middle, and powerful ending for your story.It could be in movie format. Or a new Netflix series with you as the hero.
  • When you’re done go back and read your story. As you do circle the words or phrases that jump out as personal strengths.

How’re you feeling now?

This new narrative is truer than the gunk you’ve been telling yourself. If you’re going to have thoughts go through your mind it might as well be the good stuff. Not the crystallized glue stuff.

Keep developing your new narrative. Let it settle in find it’s place in your view of yourself. Keep your eyes on You at Your Best. 

Climbing Out of the Hole

Me at My Best was one of the tools I used to climb out of that mental sinkhole and back to a healthier, positive, truer mental space. By using the skills I had developed and the resources I had in my toolkit it took me two days to make a dramatic shift and it kept improving from there.

About the Author: Susan Kuz is a Positivity Practitioner, founder of Being Pukka and creator of My Life Reboot.

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