We’re wired for story. In a culture of scarcity and perfectionism, there’s a surprisingly simple reason we want to own, integrate, and share our stories of struggles. We do this because we feel the most alive when we’re connecting with others and being brave with our stories.Brene Brown, Rising Strong
Brene Brown, author and famed Shame Researcher, believes we are all born storytellers- from the tales we weave in our daydreams to the simple recounting of mundane scenarios. It is all story-telling. And it is an art, one designed to bring forth our true self. While stories connect us with our past, and we may use them to daydream about the future, stories are an integral part of understanding our present, and our true selves.
The stories of which I speak are simultaneously works of fiction and non-fiction. Externally they are full of dramatic license, but internally, they are true, raw, reality. These stories happen when we are triggered and our emotions start to re-write the narrative of our thoughts.
Scenario: You reach out to a friend via text at 9:40 AM, inviting her to get together soon. No response. At 7:55PM, still no response. You expect to see a reply the next day. Still nothing. You send another message in the event the first one never made to her. Again, crickets. Anger and upset start to rise. And your emotions begin to write the narrative – “She is probably mad at me. What did I do? I must have done something to upset her. Crap, why does this always happen to me?!” This is the story you are telling yourself. The question is: how aware are you of this thought process? Can you disconnect from your fear to gain perspective on what is truly happening at this moment?
Your mind is racing with alternative scenarios. Simultaneously, you could be living in fear of a past friendship lost or a future one, ruined. Neither of these are “in the present.” Emotions overwhelm you as you try and craft a response. Should I be angry and tell them what a crappy friend they are? Or should I be apologetic that I may bothersome to them? This is no longer your friend’s “story”. Rather it has become your story, borne of your fears and your past. You must own it as such.
And that is exactly how you need to begin the communication, “the story I am telling myself is….” With this phrasing you acknowledge these thoughts are of your own construct. Most importantly, you are authentic to yourself and how you are feeling. You are starting to unearth your true self. It may be a very vulnerable statement, but it lets the other person know from where you are operating – anger or fear or both. More importantly, your vulnerability is an invitation for your respondent to meet you at the same level and with the same openness.
What comes after these opening words has to be a naked truth, a piece of your true self. Take a breath or a moment to gather yourself and then address it openly, without judgement or accusation (leveled at either you or the other party). In the example above, you may say “The story I am telling myself is that you are ignoring my text messages because you do not want to spend time with me because you no longer want to continue our friendship. I fear I am losing you and I am blaming myself for this.” There is no way to hide behind those words. You have shown how much you value the relationship by leaving yourself so open. At this juncture, however, it is up to the respondent as to how they answer.
Brene states that “when we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending.” A storyteller can get as caught up in the story as the people to whom he is speaking – in fact, those are often the best story tellers. Here, however, it is imperative to know a tale is being woven and it may not match the facts of the situation. In the example above we have escalated from an unresponded text to fear of loss of friendship. Rationally, this is quite a leap.
I urge you now to recognize how many stories you tell yourself on a daily basis. How many things could be misinterpreted or misunderstood. What would it feel like to express your true self authentically and (hopefully), be given the same authenticity in response.
Know your story. Author your story. Own your story.
This is not always an easy path, but we can walk it together. Schedule your initial consultation now.