June 14, 2021

Thaddeus Heffner – Keeping Our Stories Real

Licensed Marriage and Family therapist Thaddeus Heffner believes each of us sees the world through our own perspective. Because of this, says Thaddeus Heffner, many individuals never progress beyond seeing the world through his or her own tiny window. However, there are many perspectives with which to view life. In this brief conversation, Thaddeus Heffner speaks about the importance of keeping our stories authentic.

Interviewing Experts: When you refer to someone’s ‘story,’ what do you mean?

Thaddeus Heffner: When we see or experience something, we assign a story to it. It’s the way we perceive the things we see.

Interviewing Experts: Is this story always accurate?

Thaddeus Heffner: Not at all. Sometimes the story is accurate, but often we take the sensory input we’ve experienced and translate it in a way that is a huge leap in comparison to what is actually happening, or what happened.

Interviewing Experts: That sounds a lot like paranoia.

Thaddeus Heffner: You could say that. An example I use is when someone sees a group of people who all look at him or her and start laughing. The reality is, they may be laughing at something completely unrelated, but the person is sure they’re all laughing at him.

Interviewing Experts: Of course then, you don’t react well to that group of people because of perception, right?

Thaddeus Heffner: Exactly. I assume they’re talking about me and shut down, so I never take the chance to get to know them. Because of that, I end up isolated and miss out on a great opportunity to meet someone new.

Interviewing Experts: What can a person do to break that cycle?

Thaddeus Heffner: First and foremost is to reframe the way you think. I work with clients all the time to accomplish that.

Interviewing Experts: What does that process look like?

Thaddeus Heffner: Well, in the case I cited above, instead of assuming the other person is laughing at them, I tell my clients to see that group of people as a group who knows how to have fun and has a great sense of humor.

Interviewing Experts: So, for instance you might suggest that he or she introduce themselves to the group of laughing people at the party?

Thaddeus Heffner: Sure. Why not?

Interviewing Experts: Are you saying that part of thinking differently is to begin to see things differently?

Thaddeus Heffner: Right! Not just seeing the situation differently, but also processing it using the logical part of the brain to come up with a more factual interpretation of events.

Interviewing Experts: Do you believe we create these false stories out of fear of rejection?

Thaddeus Heffner: I do. A lot of times it’s easier to make those kinds of assumptions than to get to know people and risk being rejected.


Thaddeus Heffner is a Brentwood, Tennessee-based counselor who owns his own practice. A graduate of Trevecca University in Nashville, Thaddeus Heffner is a member in good standing of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT). For more information about Thaddeus Heffner therapist, visit www.thaddeusheffner.com.


  1. Barbara Hill says:

    I don’t understand how the scenario that Thaddeus Heffner described here could even feel welcoming at all. Sometimes, I think anyway, perceptions keep us from getting hurt. Like in this case, the group of people is laughing and if it’s obvious they are laughing at me, I am going to find another group. Curious if Thaddeus Heffner believes that a healthy response to help me avoid hurt feelings or an unhealthy one that could lead to resentment of the group I chose if I don’t enjoy their company?

    • Barbara – Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Certainly accurate perceptions can keep us from getting hurt. More often than not, I am working with clients who have misperceived a situation and, rather than figure out what is really going on, they retreat and maintain a painful story that may not even be true. From this false story they feel painful emotion. My invitation is for people to base their story on data. Realizing that some negative stories cannot be supported by data will save a person from feeling painful emotions, since there is no need to continue to believe the false story. Thanks again for the feedback! – Thaddeus Heffner, LMFT

  2. Elizabeth Scott says:

    Oh my! That actually makes a lot of sense, Thaddeus Heffner. I had almost the exact thing happen to me in college. I walked into my dorm and a group of girls were looking ‘at me’ laughing. I was mortified. I didn’t find out until later that they were laughing at the girl in the foyer just past me who was dressed at the dean of the school! We later made friends. If I’d had the wisdom of Thaddeus Heffner then, I’d have just turned around to see what the fuss was about.

  3. Ronald Garcia says:

    Perception is a funny thing. I’d love to sit down with Thaddeus Heffner and watch Brain Games. It would be interesting to hear a play by play by an actual expert on perception. (The show delves into how we perceive the world around us.)

  4. Carol Perez says:

    I agree with Thaddeus Heffner that we shut down when we feel threatened, like in the scenario above. It’s difficult, at best, however, to retrain our minds to get past feelings of rejection, such as this case. Does this new view apply to other situations, or just social?

  5. Elizabeth – Thank you for your comments. What a great learning experience that you had early on in life. I’m glad that it all turned out well for you in the end and that you were able to make some friends from that experience. Thanks again for reading! – Thaddeus Heffner, LMFt

  6. Carol – Great question! This view applies to other situations as well. I just used a social situation to give it some context. Thanks so much for reading! – Thaddeus Heffner, LMFT

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