drop your story — eliminate mental games
My life is one thing after another!
As I noted last week, the straight-jacket of delusion is caused by an internal process. In other words, we are straight-jacketed by what goes on between our ears.
Not all of our mental games, but assuredly the “knowing” part.
Westerners are conditioned to believe that figuring things out is the bare minimum for a successful life. Explanations trump experience, every time. People are willing to spend years and countless dollars trying to figure out “why they are the way they are.” It’s almost as if there is a belief that discovering this elusive “truth” is essential to one’s well-being, peace, and ease.
Except that there is no elusive truth. There is you, your experience now, and your stories.
I was talking with a client the other day, and he was describing a common occurrence. Something happened to him, and feelings arose, and, rather than share the facts and feelings, he described going into his head—where he’d spend endless hours trying to “making sense” of it all. Afterwards, when he’d packaged things up, he’d report the explanation of the experience to his partner. He did this because, he said, “I am not comfortable sharing my feelings.”
Yet, he and his partner are working on deepening their communication.
This is not a helpful way to do that!
Before I give you the analogy I came up with (a good one, if I do say so myself…) let me unpack facts and feelings, and then stories, by describing a couple of things from my day yesterday.
a) I had a morning meeting, and left early to go for a quick breakfast. The restaurant was out of what I wanted to order, so I left.
b) At the meeting, the banker told me that before we could proceed, both Dar and I needed to get several signatures notarized—difficult, given our schedules, and costly.
c) I decided to make up for no breakfast by going out for lunch. I was ignored for 10 minutes, so I got up and left.
Those, as Sergeant Friday used to say, are “Just the facts, ma’am.”
The feeling was fairly warm anger. As in, “Boy, did I piss myself off for a bit.”
I annoyed myself for most of the morning, mostly while walking about the neighbourhood. I did a variation on, “Stuff like this always happens to me. Why do ‘they’ treat me like this?” etc. etc. I guess I would say that I watched myself tell myself the stories, felt the feelings, and stayed present.
Then, Dar got home, and it was time for our daily conversation
So, what did I report to Darbella? All three things, in their categories. “Here is (the bare bones, the facts of) what happened to me, here is what arose as a feeling, and here is the story I told myself.”
And that was it. I did not try to get Dar to agree with my stories, and I didn’t even particularly believe them myself. Once you stop making stories real, stuff happens and then it passes.
There would have been a time when I would have gone into my head, and embellished the stories. I would have gone into a long “thing” about how this was just one more example of a series of indignities I have suffered. Then I might have tossed in some stuff about my parents and upbringing, ending with a pile of blaming and finger pointing.
What I did do was to notice the facts, have the feelings, pay attention to the stories, and report it all, and then let it go.
What was missing was endless analysis - which is what leads to delusion.
Here’s the analogy, no doubt coming from remembering that the Toronto Film Festival is on right now.
Imagine you and your partner decide to take in several films at the festival. However, you decide it will happen like this: you go to each film alone, watch it, stop at a coffee shop, think about the film, and then go home and tell your partner about your impression of the film.
And, you demand that (s)he agree with your interpretation of the film (s)he has not seen.
This is what happens when we refuse to share our lives with people we are in intimate dialogue with.
We get it into our heads that they don’t want to hear about our experiences (the facts) and the emotions we are creating. We keep that stuff to ourselves, and only tell them the story we are shoveling about our lives—the conclusions we have reached. And those conclusions typically are about blaming others and being a victim.
And it’s not even that telling others about our stories is a problem.
The problem comes when we think that the story we came up with has anything to do with reality—that the story is somehow true, as opposed to one interpretation of many.
Our interpretations are like movies we attend. We may get so wrapped up in the movie that we are unaware of the theatre, the other viewers, or the fact that what we are seeing is not real—this even has a name—the suspension of disbelief. At the end of the movie, however, we blink a couple of times and realize that nothing about the movie is, in any sense. real.
Our delusion is that the stories we tell ourselves to explain our day to day reality is both real and true.
The first step in growing up and getting over ourselves is letting go of this delusion. Once you see that the story you tell yourself is simply an aggregation of imaginings designed to prove what you already believe, you can smile, shake your head, and stop giving this story significance.
In other words, your stories are this moment’s version of what you are trying to convince yourself of, and none of them has any more to do with “now” than a movie in a theatre is somehow real.
Breathe, tell your story, laugh, and let it go.