The Seven Pillars of Wisdom
Pillar 3 - Broaden the Myth of Your Life
The Phoenix Perspective:
The story you tell yourself is your life, and can be changed to reflect
whom you want to be.
You ever notice that, when you are in a funk, you are actually telling yourself your life story?
Lets say that the following scenario is “normal”: You pick some fragment of your day. In an attempt to make sense of it, you search your memory. You’re looking for a way to interpret the fragment.
Which is what your memory is for.
So, if you want to compare the piece of strawberry pie you’re eating to all the other pieces of strawberry pie, and thus to rate the current one, that’s an interpretation. Of course, most of us don’t have an emotional reaction to pie.
So, let’s look at an event we trouble ourselves over. Someone you care about says or does something. Within a second, you’ve pre-judged what happened and you go, “All my relationships are terrible. See? It happened again.”
What just happened there was that you connected the event you are noticing to the “all my relationships are terrible” video, (one of the many videos of your life,) as opposed to simply seeking to understand or interpret the situation you just experienced.
Most people, when confronted with a situation that “seems familiar, and negative,” go into their video bank and replay painful incidents. Then they dredge up feelings, then link on the new event and feel bad about that one, too. This happens, seemingly, in a flash.
There is a problem here. What you just experienced is not linked to anything. It’s just “what happened.” It’s not linked until you link it.
A beginning step for getting out of this loop is to realize that even though it seems that some things in your life are “the way they are, all the time,” we reevaluate and change our mind about people and situations all the time. (Although we often conveniently forget this.)
Can you remember any time in your life where you looked at a situation differently - changed your mind? Like, for example, you thought some guy or gal was wonderful. You thought about him/her and had positive memories. Then, you broke up or moved away, and you changed your mind and now don’t like this person? Or think of him/her neutrally? So, what changed? Did the person change, or did you change your story?
You changed your story. Your belief. Same person. Different conclusion.
In the example of the guy/gal, we think we changed our mind about them because we want to believe that we misunderstood the person initially. In fact, we understood them perfectly, each step of the way. We thought they were wonderful when we thought they were wonderful. We thought they were less than wonderful as we learned more, and we were also correct.
The truth is: the story you tell yourself is just that. A story. It’s not true. It’s simply how you choose to describe yourself. One of many possible descriptions. You are the story you give power to.
So, what to do? Broaden the myth of your life. You are all of you. You are your good tape, your bad tape, your neutral tape, and you are all the things you continue to learn about yourself. If you give yourself permission, you can change your understanding of any aspect of your self.
My mom, bless her soul, used to say that I was “dopic.” It was a word she used to describe someone who was clumsy. She used it once at a little league practice. I’d struck out and also dropped a fly ball or two. She said, “Don’t worry honey. Not everyone is good at baseball. You’re just dopic. Nothing you can do about it.”
So, for 5 years, I didn’t play baseball. Because I couldn’t, you see. Then, as a teen, I joined an organization that also expected you to play on their fast pitch softball team. Imagine my surprise when I hit a ball over the shortstop, to win a game and get us to the finals. I can still remember walking to the plate, going “I’m going to strike out, because I’m dopic.” And then, miracle of miracles, I said, “Until now.” And I smacked a liner. I never would have made a living as a ball player, but I’m a great weekend infielder now, and I get base hits regularly. Never a homer, but lots of base hits. I changed the story I told myself from age 5 to age 14. Since then, I’m not dopic.
Your tenth exercise: What life story do you tell yourself, which you don’t like?
How would “another, positive version” be told?