November 5, 2014

Rewriting Our Negative Stories.

plate spinning

As a child, I was fearless. I knew nothing of guilt, worry, anxiety or shame.

Do you routinely feel guilt, self-doubt, anger or depression? If so, you probably already know that those feelings are not easily resolved.

What you may not know is they are the result of a systemic breakdown.

Imagine, for a moment, those feelings as spinning plates on sticks and you spinning them to keep them from falling and creating more problems. Racing frantically from stick to stick, you spin plates as you go, when your cell phone rings.

The ringtone informs you that it is your mother. You are too busy to answer and immediately feel guilty for not doing so. Your spouse is a half hour late for dinner. Has he been in an accident? Your child cries and you feel like the worst mother in the world. One, two, three more plates appear for you to spin. How many is that now, ten, twenty, countless?

You have reached your breaking point, and can take no more.

As a youth, fairy tales fascinated me: The Three Little Pigs, Hansel and Gretel, the Gingerbread Man, Rumpelstiltskin, Jack and the Beanstalk.

If a dog suffers the loss of a leg, he will quickly adapt to walking on three. To the dog, the story of what happened to that leg is irrelevant; he must make do without it.

Many people do not focus on adapting, but on the story of their tragic loss.

Even though their machine—their body—is perfectly capable of adapting, they spend a lifetime suffering in their minds. We are all in fact living exactly like the dog with the missing leg and only have one real choice: make do with our reality.

However, because we have the gift of imagination, we instead create stories about our lives.

Those stories are at the center of our systemic breakdown.

We give them too much power.

We expound upon them, growing fleeting incidents into unforgettable novels.

Making matters worse, we replay them repeatedly, strengthening those memories to the point where they seem unforgettable.

Those vivid memories are stories that got out of hand; personal fabrications that are no more accurate than “the earth is flat.”

As a teenager, I mastered the art of storytelling.

No pill or doctor will cure this systemic breakdown.

Only one solution exists: we must recognize that all those stories are our own fabrication.

Although we believe they are true, if we examine them closely, we will find most are not; no real facts back them up. A court of law would find insufficient evidence and throw them out.

Imagine two young women sitting on a park bench. The first smiles broadly, appreciating her surroundings: exquisite flower gardens, children playing joyfully and lovely weather. The young woman next to her scowls; she is angry, confused, depressed and perhaps even suicidal. Although she is physically in the same environment as the first woman and could just as readily appreciate it, she lives in her mind instead.

That internal life has no relationship to her physical reality, confirmable by all of her senses—if she ceased ignoring them.

That fabricated life may in fact lead to her demise.

As a husband and father, worry, self-doubt, guilt, anger and regret became my muse.

In truth, we create these stories and choose to live them, when we could just as easily create happy endings to them, or dismiss them entirely.

To do so, we must recognize that all of our stories are fabrications.

All stories, good or bad, we create inside our mind.

Our reality, on the other hand, is that we are a dog with four legs, or a dog with three. It is no more complicated than that.

If you take a leap of faith and choose to stop living your stories, you will be amazed at how empowered you become, unchained from them.

However, life does not simply happen; you must pursue what you desire. You cannot develop into an athlete by watching sports from a recliner. Without the restraint of your stories, however, the life of your dreams will quickly come together when you open the door to it.

As an older man, my stories overwhelmed me, but rather than bow down and submit, I abandoned them. I let them die one by one until, once again, I saw life through the eyes of a child. 

If you wish to begin this journey, start by holding your ground.

Let the plates slow, mesmerizing you with how long some cling to their stick, wobbling precariously until they finally fall, breaking into a thousand shards, a million fragments, infinite dust.

Let them fall.

If new plates spin up, restrain yourself from spinning them.

Eventually, the plates will no longer appear.

It may take a week, a month, or even a year, but in the end, you will finally realize the life you once knew was simply a story.

You will welcome reality and find peace.


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Author: Ken Dickson

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: flickr

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