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by Addie Liechty, LCSW

Sentences and thoughts that begin with “I am” are extremely powerful.  In Narrative Therapy, people are encouraged to “externalize” their problems.  For example, one would say, “I experience depression” as opposed to “I am depressed.”  Creating some space between yourself and the problem proves helpful in gaining insight.

In my clinical practice I have used the concept of externalizing a problem with children and adults experiencing disruptive behaviors as well as harsh internal voices.  Often, I ask people to act as if their problem is a person in the room.  Clients are able to access their creativity to gain awareness.  One woman was able to describe “worry” as a clingy boyfriend.  She stated, “Worry, it is time to break up.  If you keep calling me, I’m going to do my best to ignore you.”  Creating space also allows for some humor and levity around problems, allowing a shift in perspective.

As much as it can be helpful to gain awareness of problems, it is equally, if not more important to access one’s “preferred self.”  This is a desired state of being and behavior.  For many people the “preferred self” is the part of us that acts with integrity and in accordance with our deepest values.  It is often the part of us that is calm, peaceful and self-assured.  To access the “preferred self,”  I will ask clients to tell a story of when they acted in accordance with their values.  I also ask people to identify their ideal state of being and meditate on that state.  For example, one would breathe in and say, “I am.” On the out breath, they would say, “calm.”  This is a quick way to shift into an ideal state.

If this is a new concept for you, take some time this week to notice what you think and say after, “I am.”  It can be eye opening to take a look at what we say about ourselves and how this influences our feelings and behaviors.  The story we tell about ourselves, is who we become.  Do you like what you are writing?



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