By Marisa Peer
One of the best parts about being a therapist is hearing people’s stories. Indeed, the stories we tell ourselves play such a huge role in how we feel about our lives, from our relationships and self-esteem to our careers and finances.
But here’s the thing: Most people don’t realize they are telling themselves stories at all. Indeed, in my 30 years as a therapist, I’ve worked with a vast array of different people and heard the most extraordinary stories. When those people walk into my offices in London or Los Angeles, they assume they are telling me the truth: I can’t stop shopping. I can’t stop eating. I can’t hold down a relationship. I am worthless and won’t amount to anything.
My success as a therapist has come from my firm and unwavering belief that we all have the power to choose to tell ourselves better stories, and in the process change our entire lives. I’ve seen it work with everyone from celebrities and top CEOs to people just like you and me. When we change the story we’re telling ourselves, everything else changes, too.
In my newest book, “Tell Yourself a Better Lie: Use the Power of Rapid Transformational Therapy to Edit Your Story and Rewrite Your Life,” I share for the first time how my method of therapy — shortened to RTT — helps people uncover the story lines that aren’t helping them and replace them with better and much more up-to-date ones.
RTT is different because it doesn’t take weeks or months of therapy sessions to get to the bottom of an issue. Through 10 diverse case studies in the book, I show how this can be done in as little as one to three sessions using the unique power of therapy that RTT is based on.
Take Carrie, for example, one of the true client stories I share in my book. Since she was a child, Carrie had struggled with obsessive compulsive disorder that had her fixate on an elaborate hygiene routine that dominated her life. She was so tired of having every facet of her day ruled by these compulsions, and sad that she was limiting herself from so much by being afraid to let it go.
Using RTT, Carrie and I figured out the purpose her OCD was serving: It made her feel safe. And where did her feeling of this lack of safety come from? From very early in childhood, where she experienced abuse, bullying and inadequate support from her caregivers. So here we were, nearly 50 years later, and Carrie was telling herself the story of a 6-year-old: I need these obsessive habits because they keep me clean, they keep me safe, they protect me.
When we replaced that story with a new, much better one — I’m an adult and I can keep myself safe now, as well as give myself the love and support I should have received as a child — everything changed. She didn’t need the behavior anymore, and so it disappeared. Carrie had never once considered that her OCD had roots in what happened to her as a child.
This is just one example of the literally thousands of stories I’ve heard — and changed — in my long career as a therapist. And I’m so delighted to say that as Lovin’ Life After 50’s new advice columnist, I’ll be able to hear some of your stories and do my best to provide answers that are helpful, compassionate, and can reframe your thinking about a given problem or issue you’re facing in your life.
Sometimes, the bravest step is when you decide to ask for help. When you decide that you no longer want to continue living the way you’ve been living. When you allow yourself to believe — even if just for the length of time it takes to write a letter — that you have the power to change.
I know for a fact that you do, and I can’t wait to hear your stories and help you tell yourself a better lie in this monthly column. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and keep up with me online at marisapeer.com, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.