Our Stories

Very early in life we begin learning language and relating to the world in part by making associations; If I cry, mother will come. If I throw a block, everyone will turn toward me. If I take a nap, daddy won’t yell. Etc. These associations, coupled with our observations of the environment are woven into stories we tell ourselves. We come to believe that some of them represent truth.

A mother who goes back to work full time after years in the home may be the foundation for a child’s story that he had been too difficult to care for. An overheard and rather innocuous statement such as “I can’t wait to get back to work!” may be interpreted incorrectly and turned into a tale of unworthiness.

This happens over and over again to individuals and it can be more complicated when we share stories of experiential traumas over time. I was in a conversation not too long ago with three ladies from my family. We had all attended an event more than 20 years ago and yet as we sat there reminiscing, we all had different recollections of how things went down that day. Imagine how that plays out from grandparent to child to grandchild across many generations.

Keep in mind that as stories are told, we tend to color it from our position, our stance; both physically and perceptually. Furthermore, we are apt to wrap it in the emotional envelope of how we experienced it at the time or, how we imagined it to be. I tend to think of the stories that came from Holocaust survivors and their agreed perspective that it was tortuous and horrible yet there were some who found light and others who surrendered to the darkness of it all.

This is one of the intrinsic elements that make us individual human beings.  People raised in the south have heard stories all their lives about their heritage as have people raised in the north, east, and west.  Some of those stories are laden with the hatred their forefathers coveted. Others were woven with hope and perseverance. Some stories fostered helplessness and fractured into positions of surrender. Others defied the cultural climate and pushed boundaries; creating new stories with happier endings.

It’s important to wrap our minds around the fact that we create stories as a way to categorize people, places, and things. These same parameters are applied to conceptual ideas like love, religion, gender, and most anything we think to save for reference. 

If my mom and dad fought all the time, I probably have a story in my head that justifies marital discourse.  If my brother got away with punching me most days, I might tend to think that bullying is normal.  If I am consistently treated unkindly or belittled, the story I weave might leave me feeling unworthy.

All behavior is driven by emotion of some kind.  Emotions are born through our stories. They are neither right or wrong but may definitely be based on a fictional story rather than one of truth. For example – one’s value is never determined by how someone else treats you.

All of this is to help you stop and think about your stories… do they need rewritten? When you see someone behaving poorly, think about what their story might be? What is the underlying motivation for the action or inaction you may be witnessing? What story have they been told or are they telling themselves?

Culture is created and often delineated by these stories. Be curious. Take time to learn. If you are a couple in distress, talk about the stories you grew up with and the ones you tell yourself now.  If you are a family in distress – check the stories and cultural ideology you operate from and talk about the differences. If you are a person in distress, seek these same understandings as they pertain to the space you occupy in the world you live in.

Know your stories and listen for all the rest.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

TTAH

 

You can also listen to me on Try This at Home – a series of conversations about making life better.

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, orFeedburner

 

 

It’s Hurt People Who Hurt People

It’s always been my intent to foster personal growth, both as a therapist and as the woman I am. It’s a personal passion of mine as well as a daily intention. While the current political and social landscape is inspiring the energy from which I write, my motivation is still to encourage each reader to consider how they might move forward on the road to self-actualization.

People don’t wake up and think “Wow, I’m so happy I think I’ll punch someone.”… No. When someone throws a punch, it is generally because they have just felt fear or insult and their instinct is to fight or fight back. Please understand… it’s HURT people who HURT people.

Let’s define HURT.

Mirriam Webster defines hurt as “to inflict with physical pain” and “to cause emotional pain or anguish”. Some hurt is easy to identify. We can see bruises, broken bones, and blood. Sometimes, we can see emotional pain with tears, downcast eyes, and sorrowful expressions. But often, emotional pain is hidden deeply in the core of our being, in our memories, and in the stories of our lives. These pains are the ones doing the most damage. These pains are the invisible and silent motivators of hurtful behavior. These pains are at the core of hatred.

Recently, Oprah Winfrey started a discussion “Where do we go from here?” I was so happy to hear her begin by saying “we can’t even begin until we acknowledge the hurt and the pain”. 

Please read that again…

When I am helping clients heal a relationship, it is imperative that we begin by acknowledging the past pain.

Acknowledging is not the same as agreeing about the pain’s origin, it is not about determining that someone is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, and it is not about turning it around to talk about how much you were hurt. Acknowledging is listening and accepting that each individual had a personally unique experience of that point in time. People may never see eye-to-eye about a painful event as there are always a variety of perspectives but healing cannot begin until people are heard.

When we don’t feel ‘heard’, we seek validation in other areas… 

  • We talk to other people.
  • We project our feelings onto something else.
  • We become demanding.

Or…

  • We give up. 
  • We shut down. 
  • We surrender.

And when that happens… nothing constructive can be attained. When feelings are not addressed, the pain stays rooted in our psyche and becomes the catalyst for our behavior. It’s noticed in resentment, bitterness, defensiveness, passive aggressiveness, and anger. 

The answer is multifaceted with both individual and compassionate components:

  1. KNOW YOUR PAIN. I cannot say this enough. Self awareness and self understanding are central to addressing your behavior.
  2. SELF-MASTERY. Again, I cannot stress this enough. No one – ever – at any time – makes you behave in a particular way. YOU are the master of your behavior; your reaction, at all times.
  3. TAME YOUR REACTIONS. When you develop self-mastery and become proficient, you can tame your reactions so that they don’t escalate into screaming matches or violence.
  4. SHOW COMPASSION. If you’ve done your own work, you’ll immediately notice that aggressive or withdrawal reactions are consequences of pain. Compassion and empathy go a long way in de-escalating heated scenarios.
  5. BE HUMANE. There is never a reason – ever – to treat another human being in a way other than what is globally considered humane

When we truly understand that it’s typically ‘hurt people’ who are lashing out, shutting us down, or denying us… we might find the courage and strength to react from a place of love and compassion – changing the outcome significantly. 

Oprah also spoke about “ [the] collective grief and anger” that has accumulated over generations of pain that has been shared via our stories. Stories play a vital role in our pain and I’ll be discussing that in the next post so stay tuned! 

 

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

 

TTAH

You can also listen to me on Try This at Home – a series of conversations about making life better.

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, orFeedburner

 

“I’m Back” – Healing Wounds

I’ve missed writing. Especially, when there has been so much to talk about. I am often reminded of the image I envisioned while reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic about ideas and how they drop into our minds – offering us an opportunity to grab them and develop them – and then moving on to someone else when we fail to attend to them. I’ve allowed a lot of good thoughts move on but the ones I’ve recently tapped into have my attention and … “I’m Back”.

Even though I haven’t been writing here, I’ve been busy. I’ve been painting, publishing the podcast weekly, seeing clients, and imagining the next step. Covid has forced me to take my practice virtual and I haven’t minded. Yet, I want to impact a broader range of people. I want to teach, foster, and encourage self-awareness and maybe more importantly, self-mastery. I’ve been working on a template for a coaching enterprise to do; stay tuned.

In the meantime, I implore each of you reading this to add a couple of things to your ‘to-do’ list today and each day throughout the summer and beyond.

  1. Open your mind to learn those things that you don’t know you don’t know. LISTEN. I’ll be writing more about this but don’t wait for me to write it… learn to listen with an open heart – an open mind. Consider what people tell you and honor their perspective without criticism and judgement. This means you have to let go of being ‘right’ and seek commonalities. Find a place to connect and go from there.
  2. Practice mutuality in each of your human interactions. How can you support that human being you are interacting with to live their best life? Ultimately, mutuality works best when it is reciprocated but for now… just while we are all open to learning, be the one to start. Use the phrase “how can I help?”
  3. Become aware of your pain. What hurts are you carrying? What generational insults have you bought into? What do you fear? Only hurt people hurt people so if you feel injustice, prejudice, or judgement – understand why! Weeds continue to grow if we don’t pluck ALL the roots.
  4. Have difficult conversations.Stop being afraid of bringing up topics that are politically divisive. We have to talk with people who think differently than us and seek to find similarities or most importantly – hear their position in order to find a place where we can connect. Ask “why?”. Ask “ How?”. Check all of your assumptions… “I was taught….”, “I’ve always thought…”, “Is that true for you?”, “What has your experience been?”.

If we want to be a part of the healing in this country, we must begin by addressing the macro elements that keep pain alive in one another’s hearts. No social program will fix a heart of hatred. Only kindness, compassion, and empathy will suture the wounds that exist from eons of theft, torture, mistrust, brutality, minimization, demoralization, and misconduct both historically and in this very moment of time.

Entertain discussion in your heart, your home, and your community about your part in creating a humane world where each human being has an equal opportunity to thrive. We must figure out a way to recognize when someone is hurting and teach healing techniques so that it doesn’t fester and become the massive infection that is represented in hateful prejudice, no matter the source. 

I’ll continue to talk about this and I invite respectful discussion.

Be safe. Stay well.

______________________________________________________________________________

TTAH

You can also listen to me on Try This at Home – a series of conversations about making life better.

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, orFeedburner