The Stories We Tell

We tell ourselves a thousand stories about our lives. It’s natural. We tell ourselves stories about why our friends are our friends, and about why he/she loves us or doesn’t love us. We tell ourselves stories about our day – how it went, and our job – about how we love it (or don’t.)

We tell ourselves stories about why Betty was horrible to say that to Joe or how Joe deserved what Betty said…

We tell ourselves stories about our bodies. About why we’re fat or fit or ill or healthy.

Not to mention all the stories that our parents tell us about how we’re this, not that – good at math or bad at sports…

But in the end, they’re all just stories, whether they’re “true” in any objective sense or not. Actually, the entire notion of “objective truth” is misleading because any objective truth is merely a collection of subjective truths that we’ve all agreed upon.

Because we believe our stories to be true they are real for us, and as such, they become our justifications. They’re our reasons, and they become an essential part of our identity.

Our stories create our world. They are literally and figuratively a paint brush to the canvas of our life and they influence, in a very dramatic way, our perception of reality insofar that they actually become our reality.

Because perception is “reality.”

For instance, for a very long time, my story, my reality was that I was the fat, dry, funny guy with a heart of gold. Some may agree or disagree with that characterization but that was my story and it was a role I was content to play. It was a role that I could fit. That is, until I wasn’t content to play it anymore.

I needed my story to change because being the fat, funny guy with the dry sense of humor was killing me. And the only person who could change my story was me.

Changing your story, though, isn’t as easy as it might sound because it requires changing your mind.

Stepping onto a blank sheet of paper can be terrifying. It takes an incredible amount of courage, self trust, and God trust (if you dig God.) So, I stepped onto that blank sheet of paper and the shock of white, the nothingness…well, it was actually terrifying. LoL

Who am I if I’m no longer my story?

Of what value to my friends and family am I if my entire sense of value is tied up in my stories.

These are some of the questions I had to ask myself and as you step onto your blank page, you may ask yourself similar questions.

As everything falls to insecurity a tiny spark of awareness opens up. It’s so tiny that it’s often overlooked for the weight of the enormous existential questions that loom over us in that blank space.

What story can I write now since I’m not longer my old story?

In essence: who am I?

But however terrifying that space is, it’s so precious because it’s your blank canvas.

On this canvas you paint, with new brushes, what you want your life to be.

Do you want to be more happy?

More Joyous?

More Compassionate?

More open?

Liberated?

More healthy?

You can be all of those things but first you have to be aware of when your old stories start replaying in your brain.

And when they do replay, rather than grabbing your popcorn and settling in, take a step back and start asking some tough questions of them.

Is this true?

Is this what someone told me true?

Does this make me happy?

Does this story contribute to me in a meaningful way?

If not, is it time to write a new story?

In essence, when we step out of our story and cease identifying ourselves with it we have the capacity to change it or better yet, abandon it all together.

For instance, if you’ve believed your entire life that you were bad at science you’ve probably avoided it, and because you avoided it you missed every opportunity to become better at it through exposure and study. But one day you caught a science program on tv that fascinated you…now you’re deeply interested.

Maybe you were told you hated eating greens when you were a kid so as you grew up you avoided them. But somehow you got a taste of them and much to your surprise, you loved them!

If only it were as simple as changing things like our tastes or interests. These are easy examples.

It’s the real quality of life stuff that’s hard to change because it involves years of repeat viewings of old stories about “why we are the way we are.”

And even as you begin to step out of those stories to question them, they will still have a tendency to come back and back again until you’ve ceased identifying with them. And it’s all too easy to get sucked back into them because they are so deeply entrained in our minds and bodies, so familiar, that they’re near automatic in their capacity to be triggered.

I’m talking stories that inform our senses of:

Shame

Unworthiness

Bitterness

Resentfulness

Tough nuts to crack, there but our friends over at Mindful.org have an excellent nutcracker though, if you’ll pardon the pun.

They recommend the AWARE strategy when dealing with these hurtful stories we tell and retell ourselves.

It stands for:

Allow – Allow all of your thoughts and feelings (stories) to come and go as they will while recognizing that a thought is simply a thought regardless of whether or not we like it.

Witness – Witness the narrative with which you construct your sense of self. When you become the witness, you’re no longer the self identifying with the story.

Acknowledge – Acknowledge what you experience happening in the stories you tell about yourself. Is the storyteller cruel or kind? Are there familiar judgements? Acknowledge all that you notice about the story.

Release – Release the self-concepts that you’ve fabricated with these old stories and concepts. You don’t have to believe everything you think.

Ease Up – Ease up and emerge from this trance of the story.

Whether you believe you’re God’s gift or the scum of the Earth you’re on one huge Ego trip. And the world simply doesn’t revolve around you.

When we get caught up in these stories we cease being mindful of the present moment and NOW is where it’s all happening. AND more than likely, there isn’t anything wrong happening in your NOW because if they was, your be tending to it rather than rewatching old stories.

So be present, my friends. Stop torturing yourselves with your stories because you don’t deserve it. Even if you believe you do, I promise you don’t.

Om, Baby! Om,

Joshua T.

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