We are all running stories.
Not the fantastical or heroic fairytales that carry us away into imaginary worlds. No, those stories – despite their obvious detours from reality – serve a purpose to expand our minds and teach us lessons.
The stories we run within are the deeply-entrenched beliefs and explanations we hold about ourselves, others, and the world around us. The detours they take from reality are often invisible to us and, in many cases, they narrow and limit our interpretation of our experiences.
You’ll recognize one of these stories by its general and definitive tone. Our stories tend to be broad statements that include assumptions or overgeneralizations.
Some of us run stories that paint us as the victim.
“Why does this always happen to me?” or “This isn’t fair!”
Others of us run stories about perils in the world that aren’t based in fact.
“I can’t trust anyone.” or “Nothing ever goes the way I plan, so why even bother?”
And many of us run particularly painful stories about all the ways that we fall short.
“I’m not smart enough, not attractive enough, not successful enough, not strong enough.”
These stories, especially the ones that we’ve been telling for years (maybe since kindergarten or earlier), construct the lens through which we process and experience the world. The thoughts and emotions that continually pop up for us all are the result of the stories we’ve been telling ourselves, mostly beneath our conscious awareness.
It’s important to note that not all stories keep us stuck or get in our way. Carrying messages of optimism and gratitude, “I contain multitudes” and “What a wonderful world” (courtesy of Walt Whitman and Louis Armstrong, respectively) are examples of stories that generally serve people well.
But the essential fact here is that our stories run our lives. The narratives we weave about why things have happened in the past and how we should expect things to happen in the future drive how we respond as life unfolds and the outcomes we realize as a result.
Say you get into a heated argument with a loved one, and then spend the next 20 minutes simmering in the story, “I never get what I want.” How is the conversation likely to go when you re-engage?
Now reimagine this scenario as if the loudest story being run were “Even when we disagree, we are on the same team.” It creates an entirely different lens through which to interpret the situation.
If we have any hope of rewriting our stories to enable us to express the best of who we are, we must first become familiar with the stories (particularly the outdated, untrue, unhealthy, and unhelpful ones) that are currently dominating our hearts and minds.
Unlikely creates opportunities for people to investigate their own stories. To find what self-defeating thought patterns and unconscious blocks may lie within. And to expand those narratives in ways that allow them to thrive, to nurture supportive relationships, and ultimately build a more compassionate, radiant world.