Confabulation: The Narratives We Make Up in Our Minds

Have you ever gone out with someone and never heard from that person again? Perhaps you think you talked too much or too little on your date or said something to upset him or her. Perhaps you think your date didn’t like your personality. Alternatively, you might think they never called you because they’re out of your league.

From an evolutionary perspective, the human mind is hardwired to try to predict its environment. From there, our minds will fill in gaps to the unknown, which may have negative consequences.

When we are placed in a situation that stimulates a negative emotion with unknown variables, we will immediately create a narrative to fill in the gaps. This strategy helps us learn how to approach the situation in the future, which our brains chemically reward us for.

In other words, our brains try to make sense of a negative situation and explain “why” something is the way it is. If we think the other person doesn’t like us, or they are out of our league we might not contact them again. In actuality, that person might have been busy and merely didn’t have time to call you back. Thus, it is important to recognize heightened emotions that stimulate us to create false stories and become self-aware of this in order to explore these narratives with curiosity.

Using a cognitive behaviour therapy approach, we can question if there is any evidence to support our story versus evidence that goes against it. In doing so, we can reconsolidate our stories in order to ensure that they are more aligned with reality.