The Stories We Tell Ourselves

I have wanted to explore this idea for a long time. I keep talking about it in various ways but whenever I have tried to tackle the subject I hit a wall. Hard. But I’m feeling bold these days, having confronted many of my own stories, so what the heck, I’ll give it a go.

Any examination of our internal dialogue has to begin with understanding that a pattern exists. As I have said before this pattern begins even before birth; it’s in our genes and our unconscious memory. It is the pattern of interpreting and giving meaning to information that over time becomes a set of filters for further interpretation and meaning. We experience life as “we are”, having little or no awareness of the distortions that exist.

The following example is not terribly deep but it illustrates the “story”, the emotional response and judgment of information:

Last Sunday Saber and I went for a long ride on the motorcycle. It is an activity that we do together; I “drive” and Saber is my passenger. I love riding my motorcycle. I see it as a moving meditation – I have to pay full attention to what I’m doing, but that also includes being aware of the scenery around me. I noticed that Saber had her phone out; I can feel her hands in a certain way in the small of my back. I felt irritated, thinking that she is more interested in her stupid phone than what we were doing together. She’s always staring at her phone, she’s not even really “here” but connected to some bullshit that her device is feeding her – she’s such a slave to the device. She has no sense of awareness or presence in the moment. Why bother if she’s just going to stare at her phone all the time. All. The. Time. She doesn’t care, I don’t matter, it’s always like this.

Such judgment. And really helpful and wanted emotions, right? But what was the information, the facts? Yes, we were out on the motorcycle on a beautiful day. She was doing something on her phone while we were riding. She does this frequently, but not constantly. Saber likes playing Sudoku on her phone or iPad as it is relaxing. She does this frequently. All facts. It is the story that is the problem, my interpretation and meaning that my pattern colors the facts with, the judgment…

We talked about this the other day and had an actual conversation about it without any accusations or defensiveness and I learned something. So did she. Deeper understanding of each other was gained because we focused on the dialectic of the facts and the emotional responses to them. I also explained to her that I was aware of my emotions and judgments but didn’t pay attention to them as that attention would diminish my enjoyment of the ride, and the emotions quickly passed. I knew my judgments, no matter how “right” were only causing an unwanted and unhelpful state of mind, so I chose to ignore them.

Awareness of our emotions and the stories that inform them leads to understanding, and understanding brings authority. The authority is exercised by ignoring those emotions, those stories, and now we are free of the control of them. It doesn’t mean that the emotions are invalid, they just aren’t helpful and only serve to reinforce the judgments that create them.

Not a bad start to tackling the subject. What stories are your mind trying to sell you? What are the facts versus the fiction, the truth versus the propaganda? Follow the model and see if you too can’t gain some authority.

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