Teresa Brooks Life Coaching

Live your best life …

STORIES WE TELL OURSELVES

From time immemorial, human beings have been telling stories; stories with a moral, sacred stories and stories for entertainment. We may even refer to history as one type of story. Stories with a positive theme inspire us and nurture our spirit whilst negative stories have the opposite effect.  At some stage, you have probably heard someone say,” What’s his/her story?” as they observe the weird behaviour of another. Consequently, the word, ‘story’, can be elevated in meaning (a sacred story) or downgraded ( it’s just a story!)

As well as stories of our culture, we all have a story which is uniquely ours; our personal story.

Story or narrative according to the Macquarie dictionary is defined as : a story of events, experiences, or the like, whether true or fictitious.

We begin building ‘our story’ or ‘our narrative’ from birth. Our parents and relatives tell us about the sort of baby we were (easy, quiet, crying, difficult etc.) As we grow, we remember the good times which help frame the things we like and adventures which ignite our curiosity about the world. We also remember the upsetting times where embarrassment, confusion or pain played a role in our story. Usually, we want more of the good times and we try to protect ourselves from the ‘bad times’.

Our stories are also influenced by comparing  what we have to an idealised version. We dream of better things to come. We may want a perfect family or a perfect face or a perfect……..( put your own word in the blank space) We are acutely aware of the lack and are determined to improve our lot. At this stage, we are unaware of our capacity to bring this dream to fruition. And, therein lies a problem. We have created the conditions for blaming ourselves or others when results fall short of the ideal we are striving for.

Louise Doughty, An English fiction writer, says, “We all have preconceived narratives about our lives. As a result we, mis-hear, mis-see and mis-communicate in order to have what happens ‘fit’ our narrative.” So, why does it seem so important for our stories  to ‘fit’ our preconceived notions of how things aught to be? The clue lies in the words, ‘aught to be’. As human beings, most us feel more comfortable when we have a measure of control over our environment. How much control is needed differs from person to person and depends largely on our personality type and life experiences. Some metaphysicians refer to this control mechanism as the ‘ego mind’. According to Doreen Virtue ( Angels of Abundance) the ego mind wants assurances that everything is going to be okay. It wants to predict and control the outcome and to that end it will employ creative problem solving strategies. Not knowing an outcome to a particular situation can create anxiety in which case, the ego mind will problem solve with the information it has, in order to find that ‘fit’ with our life story. No fact checking required!

Here are some examples.

I was listening to Mrs Smith describe her less than perfect relationship with her parents. Her mother was the main protagonist to whom she was ascribing a number of negative behaviours. When Mrs Smith began enumerating motives behind these behaviours, I asked her how she knew this for a fact. She explained that she was quite sure about the motives even though she had never discussed these issues with her mother. When I suggested that this was a story she was telling herself, she was shocked. Disbelief was written all over her face. At first, she wouldn’t even consider that what she was recounting was anything but true. She had lived these experiences. She knew what she was talking about. However, she did eventually see  that she really had no idea as to her mother’s motives. The motives that had been laid at her mother’s feet were ones that ‘seemed to fit’ the observable behaviour. Mrs Smith’s mother’s motives may well have been as her daughter described them, but, at this point, there was no way she could know that for sure. It was interesting to note how attached Mrs Smith was to her story even though the story about this imperfect relationship was hurting her. Every time Mrs Smith told it, her pain was refreshed. I did not see Mrs Smith again. Perhaps being confronted with ‘her story’ was too much for her. When beliefs are challenged, there is a  choice; question the veracity of the beliefs or continue in exactly the same the same way. Sometimes, people are just too attached to their story.

Joan had the intention of resolving her mother issues. Her view of her mother was extremely poor. Joan’s mother had been distant and discouraged closeness of any kind. Joan felt the lack of her mother’s love especially when she compared her mother to an idealised image of motherhood. This view was held in place by the judgements Joan had made. When Joan confronted her judgements and the grief that they caused, she realised that her mother had no capacity to be anything more. Letting go of the judgements gave  Joan more freedom to consider other perspectives. She was able to see that there had been conditions (mother’s love) that she had wanted fulfilled and she kept ‘hurting’ herself because they were not. Joan was able to find some compassion for herself (and her mother) by confronting ‘her story”. Healing could begin.

In these examples, the reactions of the women concerned were largely a response to a  lack of love. When we compare what we ‘aught to have’ with an idealised situation, the lack we feel will often create pain.

I encourage you to challenge the painful stories in your life. Change your mind about letting these stories define you. Letting go of preconceived notions and beliefs is not easy because they have  been a part of you for a long time; they make sense to you and you are attached to them. To mend your spirit requires a  letting go of the painful judgements made about a particular person/ situation. Holding on to these judgements is very tiring; mentally, emotionally and physically. Letting go creates space and energy to choose something different. Letting go creates a space for love /appreciation. Letting go creates RELIEF! Letting go begins the healing process. To do this work requires a good measure of self appreciation and compassion. Support is available from life coaches and counsellors.

Be kind to your self

PS: You may want to check out older blogs entitled, Truth;  Love, what’s it all about? and another one entitled, Lack: Positive and Negative Aspects

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