Have you ever noticed that when you share a personal story from your archives of experiences that your story is often enriched with pain, suffering, traumatic details and upset? Really, think about it. Most of our stories we tell are designed to convince ourselves of our poor judgment (what did I ever see in him/her?, how could I have not seen that one coming?), our victimhood (feeling taken advantage of, ripped off, misunderstood, bad timing), failed achievements (should have gotten that degree, taken that job, been a bigger risk taker, been more conservative), and when we tell these stories to another, it’s like reporting these experiences as hardened facts, which they are not.
Our stories and the stories we hear from others are tainted truths wrought with edgy details of wrongness, like the time your car broke down and it was a lemon of a car, or the time a dinner date turned sour.
What is the purpose of story telling? It is to share a sacred feature of our life with someone we value as a listener. It is a window in to the inner life of someone we care about in work, friendship, love, or on a bus or plane. When you listen to another’s story focus on the emotion more than the words. What is the person really describing? When you hear words like “always,” “never,” “should”, you are witnessing that person’s struggle with absolutes and you learn how hard they must be on themselves sometimes, or how critical they may be of another.
When you tell your story look for the motivation behind why you chose that story. Are you defending a position so that you focus on the “fact,” are you telling a truth you have come to learn about yourself? For instance, it may be true that your parents divorced which created considerable upset in your life, but your upset isn’t only because of a divorce, it most likely is because of what you told yourself about the divorce. Our stories are layered with our own thoughts about events in our lives. A good friend told me recently that she all relationships have failed because she is terrified of being alone. When I asked her what she meant by “terrified,” and what she meant by “alone,” she revealed that when her parents divorced “they left me to die.”
This dramatic story telling may have truth for her, but it is not factual. She was not left to die, even if she felt like she was dying, the truth was she experienced discomfort because changes were occurring that she did not understand. She examined her inability to comprehend this shift in life as death and dying and abandonment.
This is a good example of how the stories we tell contribute to our suffering and pain and daily upset. We don’t have to continue to invest in stories that cause upset. Why, would we want to create upset in our lives? The plain truth is, because we believe we are supposed to. Once more an example of conditioning byproducts that come from the art of suffering, which we all excel at.
So, how do you break the chain of story telling designed to maintain a level of upset in your life? First of all, ask yourself the question if I am not hell bent on causing myself reminders of my suffering, what then would I be doing? Well, you would be opening space for other ways of thinking, feeling and doing, something unfamiliar. It is the territory of the unfamiliar that pulls us back to the familiar. This is why we can establish goals of health and fitness and stopping unhealthy patterns, but the pull of the familiar can often be a luring saboteur to your success.
This strategy applies to story telling as well. Instead of telling a story to yourself about an event that costs you in someway (love, happiness, financial success), re-tell a story and fill in the dead space (the space you would have created through reminders of loss and suffering) with love and awareness. If we add more love to this now empty space imagine what new stories you could tell!
In other words, you have the power to change your life by telling your story in such a way that you become the victor, the brave soul, the loving person who gives, the adventurer who climbs to the top, the risk taker that wanted to see, the lover who allowed himself or herself to receive love.
For this week, just pay attention to the stories you tell and the one’s that you hear. Look for threads of where love can fill the space and practice re-telling your story fully feeling alive and in charge of your life script.
Blessings on your journey