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.

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#78 Revisit Your Childhood Home

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#78

Revisit Your Childhood Home

Many of us go ‘home’ during the holiday’s and are reminded of childhood memories and the places they represent. Often, just driving past a movie theater or a diner will elicit fond memories of times past. Those places where we giggled over infatuations and had our first dates. The place we caught our first fish and the location of our our first kiss; all of the ‘firsts’ of childhood are there to induce one memory after another.

A trip down the memory lane of childhood can be beneficial on many fronts. It reminds us of where we came from. Sometimes, a little humility feels good. It can refresh our minds of a simpler time and allow us to reflect without all of the complications that have settled upon us since. When we are reminded where we came from we can make the effort to reconnect to that younger self; to remember our purest beginning.

Sharing the place it all started is fun. Children are humored by the stories we tell about a time they can only imagine. The enjoy getting to know the person behind mom, dad, aunt, or uncle. Our significant other can garner a better understanding of us if we are open to giving them a tour of our early selves. Often, moving through our childhood habitat allows them to gain insight about how we came to be who we are.

Going ‘home’ may ignite more memories than would be typical to have. It’s common for people, places, and things to stimulate a deeper memory bank and one often begets another. Before long, a flood of visions of your younger self will be moving through your mind.

Often, knocking on the door of the home you grew up in will introduce you to others who are sharing many of the same kind of memories. People have been known to offer tours of the house in its current state and are frequently quite curious about the history of those who came before them!

Some people don’t have great memories of home and may avoid going there. The benefit of closure is considerable if you can visit without reliving the pain or discomfort that may have been a part of your childhood. I recommend to clients that you prepare to watch the memories as if they were a movie with an arbitrary actor instead of personalizing the memory. This technique can be very healing, especially if you are with someone safe and supportive as you move through the recollections.

If you are going ‘home’ for the holidays, consider taking a significant other or a dear friend and …

Revisit your childhood home.

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

#222 Let Something Go

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#222 Let something Go

What kind of excess baggage are you holding on to? What are you trying to manage and/or control that isn’t within your realm of change? What do you continue to think about that has been over and done for a while now?

One Story

Pick one of the things you thought about as you read the above questions and write it down. Write down as many details of this thing you want to let go of as you can think of. The goal here is to imagine or remember it clearly – but from a distance; with limited emotion as if it is a story that belongs to someone else.

Destroy the story

Once the story is complete, take the paper in your hands and crumble it up, tear it into pieces, or burn it (safely of course). Embed the action of destroying this story into your mind – taking time to be very present and mindful of the paper’s destruction. Imagine that the story is evaporating, fading into fog, and becoming blurred.

Open Hands

As you dispose of the paper (or ash) – do so with great intention and acknowledgement that the story is now gone. As you move the paper into a trash receptacle and drop it… see your open – empty – hand. Fingers open, holding nothing.

Visualization

Visualizing this process of elimination, destruction, and emptying of the things we ‘hold onto’ is a powerful way to let go of unwanted thoughts, memories, and pains. Once the activity is completed, you can replace the unwanted memory with the memory of eliminating it. Your mind will ‘remember’ that you’ve destroyed this undesirable thought. It may be necessary to remind yourself that you’ve gone through this process and make the connection by observing your open hands.

This technique can be very powerful for those times when you make the decision that it is time to…

Let something go.

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

#282 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#282

Read a ‘beach’ book

Sometimes we just need a break and that’s why we go to the beach and often, when we get there, we read a random book – something easy and relaxing. However, not all of us can get to a beach so my recommendation then, is to let yourself read a ‘beach book’. You know – it’s one of those – sometimes known as ‘junk novels’ – a book without critic acclaim, perhaps not even a solid plot.  It’s one of those easy to read, easy to absorb, and easy to finish books.

Romance Novels are the obvious choice for a lady’s poolside read and the variety exists along the continuum of Nicholas Sparks and Danielle Steele (with solid plots) or to the other end with a good ole fashioned Harlequin Romance type of read that shakes out the storyline in the first forty pages and becomes predictable half way through. Not that there isn’t a place for reading that style of book – they’re light and fluffy… perfect if you want a quick, easy solution for fun-in-the sun (sans electronic) entertainment.

I’ve never known a man to be interested in romance novels – my thoughts about ‘beach books’ for men are similar but oriented more toward spies and zombies. My intent, of course is not to be sexist here as I completely acknowledge that those genres are not gender biased by any means and that there is a man (or many), that I simply have yet to meet that truly gets into a Nora Roberts novel.

So, the season is upon us now with this Memorial Day post and many of us are simply ready for some physical and mental R&R… put down the academic journals, the textbooks, the self-help bibles, and the heavy duty winter reading books that make you think about the world in a new way and pick up something less intense, less thought provoking, and less educational for your outdoor relaxation time…

Read a ‘beach book’.

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

#350 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

My goal is to share a daily life lesson, tip, or hack. They are the things I want my children to know and the things that I teach to clients. They are the things that make my life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#350

Read Fiction

Yesterday I wrote about keeping a self-help book on your nightstand and incorporate reading them as an integral part of your constant personal growth. Today, I am suggesting that you need to mix it up a little. At the core of my suggestion is the inclusion of ‘trash’ fiction; you know – the stories that may or may not be terribly well written but in a weird way, take you into another mental space free of any daily life stressors. The stories that whisk you away to far away islands or planets in another galaxy.

It may be a national best seller or on an obscure list of sci-fi thrillers. It could be an epic trilogy based on real historical events or an unrealistic saga of Zombie rampage. No matter the genre, fiction has a way of whisking us onto a different plateau where reality is temporarily displaced, and our imagination can run amok.

A good story not only allows for us to step out of our lives momentarily, it helps us to foster empathy as we are transported into the perspective of a character who lives and thinks differently than us. Additionally, it creates a space where we can imagine ourselves interacting with a variety of circumstances and personalities; potentially improving our own relationships.

The brief disruption from stressors allow our mind and body a ‘break’ … a mental nap of sorts. It provides an opportunity for reset, which is proven to increase our overall sense of well-being. It quiets our mind by distracting us from our daily grind. Reading fiction before bed is indicated for people with insomnia. Reading fiction opens our mind to creativity by stimulating our imagination. It fosters our ability to produce mental images and it builds our vocabulary.

Dust off your library card, download Audible, and/or charge your Kindle and spend a little time with this one daily goal…

Read Fiction

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

Photo on Foter.com