Living in our stories. Horror stories. Love stories. Crime stories. Fairy tales. Myths. Science Fiction…The Avengers… they all help us form our beliefs and values. They shape our fears and dreams. They help us decide how we want to fall in love, what we think is fair, how we wish we could fly like a superhero and how to negotiate the world. We are in fact story-making, story-devouring creatures, and our personal stories often rule us.
Master storytellers of the ages have used their words to arouse emotions and teach lessons. Some say that Jesus told some pretty memorable tales to make his points. The Buddha also taught through a parable. Philosophers often times wield parables to make sense of chaos. Poets from Homer to the Beatniks reach feverish pitches, playing, explaining, and instructing. It is an art form.
Stories have shaped the lives of listeners and readers through the ages, and we are hardwired in our cultures for them to have this very effect.
Just like stories we read or watch on the news, the stories we tell ourselves and others about our lives influence our emotions. We are living in our stories. The more often we repeat our stories, the more powerful its impact on the way we feel. Tell a story that makes you feel bad and well…you feel bad. Give a version that is encouraging, and you are filled with hope.
Since we live in a land of stories of our own creation, we have the option to invent a new story. We can generate mindful, compassionate, insightful stories that fill us with support, confidence, and peace. Make outlandish stories that make us laugh instead of becoming angry! Start celebrating, seeing, and inventing the stories that bring us joy within each moment. Living in our stories doesn’t have to be all bad.
Everything we experience emotionally comes to us by way of a story we interpret. While many of us would like to believe that we live in ‘the real world,’ a world of concrete, stone, wood, and metal, that’s only true in the strictly physical sense. Psychologically, we live in a different world, one that’s created for us inside our head, a world that’s infused with meaning at every level. These are where our stories are created.
The worst part…
Without conscious intervention, we can get caught up in a web of our own spinning – living in our stories. We forget that we are the author of our stories. The stories are merely traps we’ve created. The truth is, we can get out at any time, but we don’t know it!
Different parts of the brain get fired up depending on what a story is about. If someone mentions food, the sensory cortex lights up. If a character is running in their minds, the motor cortex is alerted. Our brains respond to the story we tell as if there is no other story available.
The unthinking mind really likes gossip because it feeds the big blue story monster (“Num num num. Me want stories,” ~we are story-making machines monsters!). Negative gossip offers a temporary fix but no joy. A healthier idea is to turn the mind to stories of gratitude and appreciation.
Feelings are created by stories according to how we interpret those stories. Maybe your boss is unreasonable and your child’s teacher doesn’t see that your child is just being a child, your client doesn’t respect your time, or your friends are mean. Guess what? These are all stories: emotion-generating stories. You are always living in your stories.
So how do we let go of these negative stories?
Great news! We can pick among the stories we tell ourselves and ask, “Does this even matter?” or “Is this even real at this moment? Does it really count?” Often the answers are no, and we can turn toward our wiser self for new thoughts and better stories. We cannot change how others see the world or how they treat us, only how we respond in return.
Have you ever wanted to invite someone to coffee but decided not to even ask because you believed the person would probably be busy? Or this scenario, where you actually asked and then follow up with, “You’re probably too busy, and if you can’t go I totally understand!”. Think about this for a second. Did you really know if they were too busy? Maybe they were busy, but also looking for any reason to get away and your’s would have been the perfect excuse?! The lesson here is that you just told yourself a story and then answered it for someone else. Now, who lives in Fairy Tale land?!
Recently a friend of mine was talking about her health in terms of some scary future limitations it MIGHT bring to her. I reminded her that she really doesn’t know what will happen and it doesn’t make any sense to worry about something that might or might not happen in the future. Unless of course, she was a time-traveling alien that did know the future?! Nah, just more stories.
Since we live in a land of stories of our own creation…
We have the option to invent a new story. Generate mindful, compassionate, insightful stories that fill us with support, confidence, and peace. Start celebrating, seeing, and inventing the stories that will bring us joy in each moment.
Let’s create the dramas we want and make stories as wonderful as the world is full of wonder.