The power of narrative

change Nov 18, 2018

The narrative and interpretation we put on the actions of others can have profound influence on how they perceive themselves, and therefore on their actions as well. Satan, "the accuser of our brethren", twists our perception of ourselves and others to accomplish his purposes.

The photo above is me at age 15. I absolutely love this photo - I look so at peace and unburdened by worries and fears. I don't remember worries of same-sex attraction being a problem for me at the time. I've asked myself a lot over the past few months when and how this changed. The only thing I can figure out is that over time I adopted a narrative about what my feelings meant, which, as it gained more strength in my mind, altered my perception of myself and who I am.

Narrative has been an extremely powerful force in my life. The narrative I choose to believe can largely determine my response to any challenge or stimulus that I experience. I've seen that power in my life when I've believed I was bipolar, when I've believed I was autistic, and when I've believed that no change was possible with same-sex attraction. I detail those experiences in my post on Emotions, labels, and boxes. Narratives we believe about ourselves are often a product or interpretation of society's attitudes and beliefs toward our behavior - of the suggestions that society throws at us. A recent study showed the impact of suggestion on our behavior, including indirect suggestion, and even went so far as to note that "simply observing people or otherwise making them feel special can be suggestive"

Satan is very clever at using the power of suggestion to his advantage. One of his names, mentioned in Revelation 12:10, is "accuser of our brethren". He loves to create narratives in our minds about who we really are and what our desires mean. In my own experience, he has often twisted my normal and good feelings of love and caring for other people to the point where I perceived them as wrong and an indicator of my own unworthiness before God. I believed very innacurate things about my desire to hug others and show concern for them. This power held sway in my life for decades, and I continue to struggle against it at times.

Satan's ability to keep us trapped in suggestion reveals how clever and practised he is. I have found that when I break free of the suggestions Satan creates in my own mind, he gets others to tell me the things he used to tell me directly. He attemps to push me back into previous patterns of thought. If I am not careful, he also uses me to do the same thing to others. I have experienced him twisting my perceptions of others in order to get me to say things to and about them that are innacurate.

This narrative was given to me in many ways - in society's attitudes toward men who tend to be more sensitive, in comments I remember from others that pigeonholed my silliness as "gay", and in ideas that Satan put in my mind over time. Society's message that men should not be sensitive and should not touch each other has been toxic for my emotional and psychological wellbeing. Over time, I adopted society's narrative as my own. I increased my isolation. That isolation, rather than protecting me from my fears about myself, only served to sever me from deep needs we all have as humans to see others and be seen by them. Over time those unmet needs manifested themself in a sexualized manner.

The change I've experienced over the last few months has come because I've fought to change my narrative about myself. I've made a lot of progress in beating back incorrect interpretations of my behaviors and feelings in my own head. The frustrating thing, however, is that Satan, now that he knows he can't get to me directly, has been getting other people voice to me the same things I used to fear about myself. Every time this happens, it sets my progress back and I have to fight to keep my footing and maintain my forward momentum. But I'm learning and growing stronger over time, and am better able to separate my own beliefs about myself from what society suggests they should be.