Beware the Negative Inner Narrative

There is an old adage that says, “Assume the worst and you’ll never be disappointed.” If I could alter one thing about myself it would be to stop filling the gaps in someone else’s story with my own negative prejudices, brokenness, preconceived notions, and inner narrative. For instance, I tend to assume immediately that others don’t like me very much because, on many days, I don’t like me very much.

I string together my negative experiences of the past and shoehorn them into the present, usually at someone else’s expense. I adopt every worst-case scenario and smear them into the cracks where the grout of missing facts and truth should be. Many therapists refer to this as our unspoken negative inner narrative – the story we tell ourselves to support the way we truly feel about ourselves.  Not surprisingly it impacts the way I practice my own recovery more than I might like to think when I spend any amount of time listening to this nay-saying inner dialogue.

Even more dangerous is that there have been those rare times when I have been right about my negative assumptions. Many times I have assumed the very worst of people and situations and it has proven to be true. The worst thing that can happen to a cynic is to be proven right!

This fuels my sense of justification as I jump to every conceivable conclusion from that point on because I obviously don’t need all the facts. After all, I obviously have the gift of assumption. I hold it in the same esteem as a rare talent—like juggling or being able to belch the alphabet.

There have been, however, the times (most times, to be honest) when I have been dreadfully wrong. Those numerous times when I should have kept my assumptions to myself, because I fueled unnecessary suspicion about someone or some situation that wasn’t warranted. I played on my own mistrust of others to fuel my inner monologue only to find that I, and those I had influenced, were completely misguided. This is the point where I find myself facing new amends that need to be made and fighting shame, which only triggers my self-loathing and consequently my potential to medicate. Sadly, making those dreaded amends doesn’t come nearly as naturally to me as my gift of assumption.

Negative assumptions thrive best in the dark, damp places where the light of trust and hope never break through the cracks of the walls. They are like the poisonous mushrooms of the soul waiting to be harvested from their dank domain. When the light of truth finally breaks through, they shrivel and lose their potency. I have found that what disarms my tendency to jump to these negative narratives is asking myself what might be triggering my own self-centered fear. This has spared me many fresh amends that I would have otherwise had to make and it allows me to invest my energy in the places that truly need my attention – my own insecure and fearful heart.

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David Hampton

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  • A survivor of addiction himself, David Hampton is a Certified Professional Recovery Coach (CPRC) and a member of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC).

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