You can think of a narrative as a story we tell in our mind. A narrative is not a concrete idea, unlike a belief or a thought, however it may help to think of a narrative as a more abstract way of thinking about how we create coherence with our emotions and the events that surround us.
In a way, we rely on our narratives to make sense of the world, based in the agreements and beliefs we have of our circumstances.
Often narratives remain unconscious, simply because we consider them to be relatively harmless. We can have narratives such as “Man, the sight of that hot dog is making me feel hungry” or “How beautiful is the glare in that sunset?” which as you can imagine, are not stories that are going to destroy our lives.
On a much more harmful level however, narratives transpire as “I’m not good enough because I’m not thin” or “I can’t stop thinking about my ex because I feel guilty for leaving her”.
All these sentiments are just plain narratives that we create in our head, usually because we take our emotions personally. I would have to go further into into emotional reactions and agreements to explain it further, though I would end up writing a book if I were to fully explain everything.
Of course, we don’t need narratives to function. In essence, they are learned behaviours that have become exaggerated over time and since they are harmless a large portion of the time, we don’t take notice to them. It’s only once they grasp their control over us, do we feel helpless as in the case of this gentlemen.
He wrestled with this “narrative” until he finally created another narrative to become comfortable with himself. Yet this is what makes them so dangerous. We continue to chain these narratives to a point where we become confused and this very easily develops into mental illness.
Even if you do find answers to these narratives, it is simply perpetuating something that isn’t there and eventually you will corner yourself into an emotional blackhole, most typically, when it comes to trying to explain trauma.
Now of course, this man isn’t talking about trauma, which is why it is “okay” so-to-speak in explaining philosophical questions. However it is a bad habit for when you do eventually experience trauma (or remind yourself of past trauma) and you approach it in this way.
Of course, the alternative is to dissolve all narratives and live within the present moment — which unfortunately, is a difficult, though necessary task if we are to live without emotional pain or delusion. After many years, it is still something I struggle with, though I can happily say that I’ve learnt a lot and my mind is much healthier than before.
If you’re interesting in learning more, I write about mental illness on my medium blog and how I’ve personally dealt with it.