Patients often begin therapy believing in unhelpful narratives that they’ve constructed about their problems. 3

from book Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed

When a patient begins therapy, she usually doesn’t just have a presenting problem – she also has a whole narrative built around it. Unfortunately, it’s usually a pretty unhelpful narrative, one that the patient uses to simplify her problem and project it outward instead of digging deeper and shifting her focus inward.

That was certainly the case for the author when she herself sought out therapy. For two years, she had been dating a man who she had been planning on marrying. They were in love, and everything seemed to be going fine. Then, out of the blue, he announced that he wanted to call off their relationship. The reason? Well, she was a single mom with an eight-year-old son, and he realized that he didn’t want to live with a child.

Her boyfriend had never even hinted at this issue before, so the revelation and the accompanying breakup came as quite a shock to the author. By this point, she was in her late 40s; she’d gone through many breakups before, and she’d emerged from each of them relatively unscathed. But something about this one sent her into a tailspin of anxiety and depression, which led her to seek out a therapist for herself: a middle-aged man named Wendell.
When she came to Wendell’s office for the first time, she arrived just like her own patients, with a narrative already built up in her mind. In that narrative, her inner turmoil was merely the result of her breakup – and her breakup, in turn, was simply the result of an unfortunate fact about her ex-boyfriend: namely, that he was, in her own words, “a goddamn motherfucking selfish sociopath.”
In her first few sessions of therapy, the author spent much of her time trying to prove the validity of her narrative. She told Wendell about all the questionable things her ex-boyfriend

said and did before and after their breakup, hoping that Wendell would agree with her that the ex-boyfriend was, indeed, selfish and sociopathic. She thought that if Wendell provided her narrative with external validation, she’d be able to use it to make sense of her breakup and move on with her life.

But Wendell refused to give her the validation she was looking for. As we’ll see in the next blink, he saw it for what it was: a way of avoiding her real issues.