The Weather in Houston is _____: How the Stories We Tell Shape Perception
The weather in Houston is ______. You’ve heard it from out-of-towners. “How do you live there! It’s so hot…and the humidity!” I heard it too. Having lived in Virginia, Arkansas, Ohio, and Abilene, Texas I didn’t quite know what I was in for when my wife and I moved here. So I went into it conscientiously taking an attitude of “not knowing.” To my surprise, I found I love Houston’s weather! The summers are hot but you cope by staying indoors. The other eight months of the year are great! There are more than enough of those balmy mid-70 degree mornings and evenings. But when I try to explain it to those from elsewhere, they just can’t understand. To them “Houston” means hot, humid, and just plain miserable.
The stories we tell shape what we see and what we don’t see. Stories have the power to make us hyper-focus on those parts that fit the storyline and blind to those that aren’t part of the script.
We all tell stories about ourselves and those around us. Sometimes we make them up. Oftentimes others hand us scripts and we stick to their lines. “My ____ told me I would never amount to anything.” Stories may take the form of labels: “I am a _____.” What stories do you tell about yourself? Where did you learn to tell that story about yourself/your spouse? Is this story always true? Are there times when it is not?
More often, stories are much more subtle than the example lines above. What we observe as we grow up shapes our idea of what to expect as adults. Marriages are… Conflict is resolved through… People can (always/never) be trusted… I (can/can’t) be depended on… Disappointment is best handled by…
What often goes unnoticed is that no story we tell is always true. Most often we tell negative stories about ourselves, blind to the positive exceptions. When we do this we also become blind to solutions. The shame that accompanies these negative stories tends to cement them in place. Therapy can be beneficial as it helps us become aware of the stories we tell and highlights alternative stories that are already there, unnoticed. The therapists at Fuller Life help clients explore their stories in an environment free of judgment, endeavoring to reduce the problem-cementing effect of shame. We avoid imposing our story about solution and help the client discover their own.
What stories have you heard about therapy or who goes to therapy? We hope you will give us the opportunity to co-author a new story of healing.
Resident Therapist at Fuller Life Family Therapy Institute