I was listening to a radio show the other day, and a caller said: “Over the years, I’ve come to the realization that human beings have a deeply rooted belief that we are unlovable.” My first thought was: “I don’t feel that way at all.” My next thought was that this caller was making a rather broad assumption on behalf of all human beings! This belief of being unlovable was obviously part of her own story. It was such a good story that she had projected it onto the rest of humanity. This is the story through which she views the world.
We’re all living within stories of our own making. Most of these stories are about ourselves. The story of how good we are at something. The story of how everyone takes advantage of us. The story of how, one day, we’re going to be rich and famous. There are the stories that make us look superior, and stories that help us avoid taking responsibility. There are the stories in which we’re always right, or always the injured party. Then there are the stories about other people (“My mother will never understand.”) and even stories about all of humanity (“People are good/bad/etc.”).
There is nothing wrong with our stories. We use them as a frame of reference. We share our stories with each other and influence each other through the sharing. Our stories are how we explain our life circumstances to ourselves, and sometimes to others. They are the filters through which we view every interaction. Our stories create our perspective, our unique point of view on life.
Now, we could talk about creating positive stories for ourselves. Empowering stories certainly serve our happiness more than stories of victimization. In my opinion taking a positive perspective definitely is preferable over a negative world view. But here’s the thing: They are all just the stories we tell ourselves.
These stories are not who we are. And they are not “true.”
The problem with the stories are that, as the events of our life change, the stories change also. One moment we’re the capable, successful business man or woman. We are the maverick entrepreneur who does things his or her own way. And then we get laid off, or fired. Our business goes under. The story and our life experience suddenly don’t work together anymore. And overnight, the story becomes “I thought I was successful, but the whole time I was just kidding myself.” Or “I’m not appreciated for my hard work.” Or “My clients just couldn’t understand my vision.” The story can change overnight. Its perceived truth is like a rug that is pulled out from under us. We can go from living a story of being happily married to living a story of deception in an instant. If we allow our story to become our identity, we will live in fear, because our very identity is constantly in jeopardy.
Our minds are going to tell us these stories. There is nothing wrong with that. If we can pick positive and uplifting stories to support us, then by all means let’s do so. But we must acknowledge the stories for what they are. We can observe our minds in the telling. “Look, there’s my mind, spinning that yarn again about how my neighbors are so inconsiderate and I’m so superior, because I would never act that way. There it goes …”
Through observation, we create a space between our identity and the story. The bigger that space grows, the less attached we are to the story. Within that space is room to question the story because, in doing so, we are not threatening our own identity. Within that space, we create room to be present to what IS, rather than trying to make events fit our story. It is a space in which we can discover our true nature and inner wisdom.
What stories are you telling yourself these days?
Thank you to Anmol Mehta for including this article in his Yoga, Meditation, and Spiritual Growth Carnival.