Freedom is man’s capacity to take a hand in his own development. It is our capacity to mold ourselves. –Rollo May
As a human being, I am a meaning maker. I’m compelled to make sense of the world around me. I do this by telling myself stories. But I’ve discovered, as I become more present, that I have less of a need to make up stories. And, when I do make up stories, I make up healthier ones.
When I look back at my childhood I realize that my parents defined everything for me, and I rarely questioned the beliefs I was given.
As I grew into adulthood I continued to be influenced by those early beliefs, and at times I used them as excuses to justify why I was unhappy or why I behaved poorly. For example, I remember times when I was reactive to other people and I would say, “Well, that’s because of how I was treated as a child.”
That may be true, but I acted as if it was forever true, as if I had no choice. That wasn’t true.
After learning to Live Consciously, I understood that the way I make meaning—the stories I tell myself—create the life I live today. If my life is satisfactory, it’s probably because I’m making constructive meaning. If I’m anxious, dissatisfied, or living in a contentious relationship, I probably need to change my stories.
Here are examples of some of the stories that can unconsciously direct our lives:
I married the man, so I need to make the best of it.
My family was crazy; that’s why I’m the way I am.
I have a broken heart, I’ll never have love again.
Men can’t be trusted.
Life is hard.
Relationships aren’t easy.
I should be loved unconditionally.
I am unlovable.
I am unhappy because they never do this or always do that.
Questioning our beliefs and stories, judgments, fears, regrets, and remembering that they are all fabricated by us—or given to us by someone else—allows for new possibilities from which we can freely and consciously make choices for how we live today.
Victim to my own stories
If I am not conscious that what I’m telling myself is made up, I can forever be a victim to my beliefs and ideas.
I may have known this intellectually, but not until I went to my first Live Conscious retreat, where I learned Perception Language, did I learn to recognize—in the moment—how I was constantly making up stories. After steeping myself in this new way of using language I became far more conscious and intentional in the ways I communicated.
A patient once told me about a mentor who she said, “taught me everything I know.” This mentor, she said, laid out a foundation of wisdom that guided her ever since she heard it. The one piece of wisdom was: “You will tell your story until you don’t need to tell it anymore.”
But what the mentor didn’t tell my patient was that this wisdom she shared—it was made up too. Was it really wise advice? Perhaps we don’t need to keep telling our stories at all. There is another option. Once our stories have been brought to consciousness, we can, actually choose to do two things.
- At times we can stop the stories all together. To learn more about this read this article.
- We can learn to create healthier stories.
We have a choice to tell ourselves healthier tales and when we do so we change the quality of our lives and relationships.
My new story
Here’s my current story: my stories are not me. The real me, the me behind all my stories—the witness, the observer of those stories, is the me I now focus on and nurture. And that “me”, I believe is often free to exist without stories.
I also recognize that there are times when I need my stories—I need something to make sense of what’s going on around me—but I can choose what stories I tell myself, I can focus on what is good in my life, and make my life be one that I consciously choose every day, moment by moment.
What I found was that when I stopped telling certain stories, I had to let go of my excuses for behaving in certain ways. But I also empowered myself to behave in other ways and I’ve come to experience myself as more mature, more centered, happier and more at peace.
For fun, in the comment section below, why don’t you write a short sentence or two that captures your story. Maybe share your “old” story and then share your “new” story. I’d love to hear what you have to say.