These Are Not Your Stories
I was at a shaman workshop last weekend, and the concept of “the stories of our life” came up.
This makes a lot more sense than merely the singular “story of our life.”
Our lives are a multitude of layers, thousands of experiences, all layered upon each other, all combining together to make the gloriousness that is us!
So, first thing to do is recognise these stories for what they are. How do we find them? Easy, just switch off your thinking brain, & start writing!
Eg, for me, they’d go something like:
- I was born in Australa (that’s a story)
- We moved around a lot when I was a kid (another story)
- I grew up in a lower-middle class family
and so on..
The critical thing here is this – when we think about identity, ourselves, who we are, it’s these stories that define us. These are the things that we tell ourselves over & over each day, in the back of our minds.
And that’s exactly the problem.
The more we tell ourselves these stories, the more they define us.
You get in a troubled relationship, make the mistake of extrapolating a bit too much, & start telling yourself “I always fall for the wrong guy/gal”, and hey presto, you’re going to start doing that in your life. These are self fulfilling prophecies.
Imagine having a guy who followed you around all day, whispering in your ear “you suck!” or “you’re a failure!”. How long do you think before your life really did start sucking? (or, perhaps a better move, you punched him out).
The problem is, this is exactly what our mind is doing to us. It’s why shamans deliberately let go of their stories as part of their training. Why buddhists learn to detach themselves from their egos. It’s all the same thing.
Now, that’s a pretty big goal, so what’s a good first step?
Well, how about realising that a whole bunch of these stories aren’t even ours?
90% of what happened before I left home? Those aren’t my stories.
Anything I didn’t directly choose, or was just something I was told? Those aren’t my stories.
I didn’t choose to move around as a child. I didn’t choose where to live, how much money the family had, & so on. These were my parents’ decisions. Sure, they affected me at the time, but they’re only my stories if I choose to make them so. They only continue to affect me if I choose to make them part of the collection of stories I tell myself.
Even just changing the focus can help enormously. “I’m from a lower-middle class family” to “I had lower-middle class parents” or “My parents were lower-middle class.” At each step removed it’s less & less self-defining, so the story has less power. If you want to keep it at all.
Ditto with relationships. How many relationships have you been in where this person, that you chose, respected & loved has told you something terrible about yourself? You’re a terrible lover, useless in business, embarrassing to be seen with, and so on.
Why are you choosing to continue telling yourself that story? (“I’m embarrassing to be seen with”). It’s not your story, it’s just their opinion, their story.
We have the choice, we always have the choice not to continue telling ourselves these stories.
Realising that we have these stories is an important first step.
Identifying which ones we can let go of is enormously empowering.
An easy first step is to chuck out all the ones we have that were never ours to begin with.
When we can finally release them all, then we’re well on the way to being truly free to live.