Human beings are natural story tellers.
In fact, I would wager it was our first intangible art form.
Since we first began communicating with each other, we were telling stories, tales, fables, histories, mysteries, and myths of love, tragedy and magic.
We have always used story to learn, elucidate, educate and survive.
Yes, stories have enabled our survival: “Don’t go into the woods children or the monster will eat you.”
They frighten in order to protect.
They inspire in order uplift.
Stories are still one of our most powerful mediums.
However, it’s time for us to get very clear about the kinds of stories we tell ourselves, because the stories we tell ourselves can be perilous to our well-being and happiness.
And the longer our more negative stories go unexamined, the more dangerous they become.
We can get so lost in what we think or believe happened to us (filling-in-the-blanks with our own beliefs, assumptions and expectations)…
That we become unwitting masters at manufacturing unnecessary pain.
Why do we do this?
Why do we create needless suffering for ourselves by convincing ourselves that our stories are true?
Simply because our egos really hate being wrong.
When under siege our egos would often rather take us down in flames than step aside so the cool clean facts of our lives get their time under the microscope.
Instead of taking just the facts at hand, which may be brutal in themselves, we then go to great lengths to build big stories around the facts, which only delays our healing.
The less story we add to our facts, the faster we can move forward.
This is not to say that our facts aren’t traumatic. They certainly can be.
Trauma is in its own class of experience.
It is also relative to the individual.
One person’s trauma can be someone else’s terrible day.
Trauma is body-blow to our emotional and/or physical beings.
It need not be catastrophic to be catastrophic.
However, layering trauma with story above and beyond the facts is what makes story dangerous.
At first we may do it to cope, but over time we start to accept this mechanism as fact instead of a survival tool.
For example, if a person is abused in a relationship, that is traumatic in itself.
This is further compounded when the person being abused tells themselves a story about why it’s happening:
“I deserve this since I’m not a good person to begin with,” or “I can’t afford to be on my own. This is the best I can do.”
This person is at greater risk for staying in the abusive relationship because of the story they tell themselves about it.
On the flip side, we will tell ourselves stories to make things seem okay rather than confronting the facts.
“He says they’re just friends,” when the facts belie otherwise.
We lie to ourselves through story.
The last fact factor we must beware of is presenting our story to the world as fact in such a convincing fashion that we actually spread untruths.
“It is this way,” when what we’re really saying is, “It should be this way.”
Wanting it to be true does not make it so.
When processing our difficult experiences, if we begin by focusing on facts, which are just information with no emotional or dramatic component, we can sift through it faster.
Fact is: “I am unemployed.”
Story is: “I am unemployed because life is unfair.”
Fact is: “I am getting divorced.”
Story is: “I am getting divorced because I knew he/she never loved me.”
Fact is: “That guy was not engaged in the conversation we just had.”
Story is: “That guy was not engaged in our conversation so obviously he is an asshole.”
If we strip the stories from the facts we propel ourselves where we want to go more quickly, saving ourselves a passel of energy.
Why get mired in potentially detrimental unconsciously woven narratives hatched solely to make things feel right instead of true?
By being brave with this process, we gradually are liberated from the deceptive weight of story…
Sparing ourselves needless excess pain, hurt, confusion, alienation, and anger.
Facts can be painful, but let’s not make them more painful than they have to be.