How we Use Stories to Limit Ourselves
What if the stories you tell yourself about who you are and what is happening to you are choices ?
What if you could choose powerful, liberating stories where you are the hero and let go of the one’s where you have no choice and are a victim ?
When I started Consciousness Coaching I was introduced to the concept of stories. It was a liberating concept but surprisingly hard to actually ‘get’. When you are aware of the stories you tell and the stories you are being told, life becomes a lot easier to escape, or at least, limits become a whole lot easier to shift which is the whole point, because the life you want to live and the dreams that go with that exist on the other side of limits. To shift your limits understanding the stories you have adopted and are living is key!
What is a story ?
Stories are the way we add meaning to the events in our life. Whenever something happens you add context and create a story around it.
“There I was, minding my own business at work and the next moment my colleague waltzed up and accused me of undermining her in a meeting. I was shocked, but then again she never really liked me and is very insecure and I just know I threaten her but what am I supposed to do ? Just sit here and take it ?”
How many stories did you hear in the above ? Did you ?
An easier way to understand stories is through a more simple example and my favourite is the coffee mug. It looks just like a normal white coffee mug yet it is a precious family heirloom that no-one in the family can use having once been used by a famous soap star. Everyone in the family knows about this and never, ever use it. Then came the day when a friend of a friend came over and decided to make herself a cup of tea, grabbed the least imposing mug and in the process dropped it. What a drama!
Or wait! I think I was supposed to tell you the story of a plain white coffee mug that was given to a friend by her ex-husband. How she hated that mug. It was buried in the back of the closet and no-one was allowed to even mention it never mind use it.
The same mug, plain, white but totally different contexts. Each story was equally valid and each generated a distinct emotional experience and set of reactions….limits…and consequences.
How does this relate to your life ?
Which brings me back to the original story. Two stories were interwoven in there, my reaction and the story I tell explaining it and the other persons behaviour and then their story about how they experienced my actions in the meeting. What was the truth ? There was a meeting! What happened in that meeting was completely different for each participant as each filtered it through their own story lines.
So stories allow us to make sense of the world and what has happened to us and so they change what is, which explains one of my favourite saying pain is inevitable, however suffering is optional. Suffering is the story we add to what happened. That is how we turn a painful sad moment into one of endless suffering. We could just as easily not added a story and allowed it just to be or we could have chosen a different story, one that created a different interpretation of events. A personal example of this would be my Gran’s death. She struggled with painful bone cancer for months before she finally died. In that time we all suffered watching her suffer. She wanted to just go and be free and there was nothing any of us could do but wait. And wait we did. I remember the day she died vividly, we were all there gathered around her bed, talking quietly. She was unconscious and had been for a while, an automated morphine delivery system keeping her away from the pain. I remember her last breathes (there is always more than one). I remember the intense peace and almost joy of that moment. I cried and I was grateful and I missed her intensely and then I cried some more but there wasn’t the pure suffering of other family deaths . I was telling a different story about the events, one that allowed me a different reaction.
The story I was telling was different. I could have made into a tragedy and walked around in tears for months requiring the never ending support of family and friends until they finally got fed up at which time I would move into another story – “poor little old me, no-one loves me no-one cares”. None of which would have changed the fact that my Gran had died – everything else was my story about it.
Getting Practical – Finding Your Stories
Then I started to become aware of the stories that tell and how the limited me and affected how I felt about the stuff around me. It was a humbling moment to realise that I was my own captor. Enthusiastic as only a new convert can be I took this liberating concept into one of my coaching sessions with my best friend (and guinea pig). I was rather surprised her response – complete denial, moving into rage and then settling into righteous defense.
“How could I turn her whole life into nothing more than a story ? This was real! This was her life I was belittling!!! “
These days she phones me to talk about how hard it is to get her friends to see the stories they are creating which is when I have to laugh, remembering how hard it was for her to let go of the stories that she thought were her.
Getting Practical – How to
We become so attached to our stories that we forget they were choices we made, things we created to make sense of the world. Even worse, we don’t update them when we know more, instead we stick to old interpretations often coming from way back when, when we were kids or the as bad, the interpretations our parents gave us and we believed because that is what you do, believe grown ups.
How do you change it ?
1) Be present to the following questions
- What if the stories you tell yourself about who you are and what is happening to you are choices ?
- What if you could choose powerful, liberating stories where you are the hero and let go of the one’s where you have no choice and are a victim ?
- It is what it is! How can you live that and nothing more?
2) Spend time at the end of your day to presence yourself to how you experienced your day. How do you think that would sound to someone else ? If this were a movie, who would you be ? That if nothing else will give you a clue as to the role you are playing and the story you are living.
3) Change the story! How do you want it to be ? Who do you want to be ? What would need to change to create that ?
Stories are choices, which means you can use them to create the life you want to live! It will feel uncomfortable at first, like it is a lie because that is not the way you are used to seeing the world, but what is truth ? Is it the interpretation of events or is it the event ? Why is your story any less true than another ? Why are you so attached to that version of events ? How could you let it go ?
You were born to be a dream maker, but to become that you need to let go of who you think you are and choose to create who you want to be! What stories should you be telling ?
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