By Mike McMahan, LPC
Psychotherapy provides a chance for clients not only to tell their story but for details, events and actions to be turned over, examined and maybe even broken apart and re-assembled in a new design. By choosing to emphasize certain elements of your story, you can do more than just change the tone or tilt of your narrative; you may have an entirely new story!
For a kinda mind-blowing example, check out this video from Mashable that recuts footage from Jurassic Park as a preview for a faux-documentary about the early life of a raptor named “Littletail.” By the time a Disney-esque voiceover and music were added, I was all ready to see if this was streaming on Netflix.
What I’m discussing here is not entirely different from the “recut” technique I discussed in a previous post using the clip of Batman And Robin recut in the style of Batman auteur Christopher Nolan. But there is a key difference to me, and that is (more or less) how far are you willing to go with this?
Let me interject here and emphasize something: I’m not talking about lying. Plenty of us know people (or are maybe one ourselves) who interject fake experience on a resume to land a new gig. Politicians are masters of this sort of reinvention as well. To use a more clinical term: this is malingering, and it’s not what I mean at all.
But, to extend the job example, what if you are considering a career change. Yet, you have no idea what you want to be doing or how to start doing it? This might be a good time to apply the “Jurassic Park recut” technique. Perhaps make a list of all the things you do during a regular day. Say, for example, you currently work at a retail clothing store. While folding and displaying clothing might be something unique to this industry. But if you work in retail, you may have some experience with cash handling and making bank deposits. Maybe you have been at your current position for some time and you have supervisory duties. Now a story of your day might be about someone who makes decisions about how the store operates and helps other employees with problem customers.
This same technique could be applied to your personal life as well. Perhaps you are someone who feels they are crippled by anxiety. Perhaps your story can’t be recut to be a person who is free from anxiety (though it may be some day). But maybe there is a different story about a person who is confident in other areas. So you start off with “I am a person who is paralyzed by anxiety over everything” and end up with “I am a person who is great at keeping an exercise routine and is building confidence by making t-shirts and selling them on Etsy.” There is literally no reason that both of these statements cannot be true—there is no contradiction inherent in being both of these people.
Opening up these sorts of possibilities is part of a therapist’s job. But don’t kid yourself. Just like you can edit movies at home these days, you can use this technique by yourself with a pencil, paper and a bit of motivation.
Mike McMahan is a psychotherapist in private practice in San Antonio, Tx.
Therapy Goes POP
Perspectives on therapy and mental health as viewed through the lens of popular culture