[ This is a reprint of my June 2012 article in the Natural Triad Magazine. Please take a few minutes and watch the most amazing video, at the bottom of this post, showing the transformative power of telling yourself a new story of who you are.]
The Art of Telling a New Story
By: Donna Burick
Our past is a story existing only in our minds. Look, analyze, understand, and forgive. Then, as quickly as possible, chuck it. – Marianne Williamson
Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts. —Salman Rushdie
If you keep telling the same sad small story, you will keep living the same sad small life. —Jean Houston
Many people don’t realize the extent to which stories influence our behavior and even shape our culture. Think about how Bible stories teach the fundamentals of religion and rules of conduct. Think of the fables and parables that molded your values. Think of how stories about your national, cultural or family history have shaped your attitudes about yourself and others. —Lawrence Shapiro, in How to Raise a Child with a High EQ: A Parents’ Guide to Emotional Intelligence
Imagine yourself as an old peasant, walking down the road with a very heavy bag slung over your shoulder. As you go down the dusty road this bag causes you to stoop over as you perch it on your back. Although this bag is heavy and awkward you cling to it because it contains all your life stories. The thought of leaving it behind is terrifying. What if you come to a point in the road and you need to make a choice? How would you navigate it without pulling out an old story? What if you are traveling alongside a partner? Could you interact with them without the aid of these heavy memories as your guide?
Not only can you navigate your life more easily without clinging to this old bag of tales but the only way to go through life with ease is to let it go. However, you need to replace it with something else – nature abhors a vacuum. Therefore, it is time you learn the art of telling new stories.
The first step in learning to tell a new story is to realize that the stories you’ve carried for so long as “Truth” are not. They are memories, stories you’ve told yourself & others and as such they are altered each time you recall or retell them. This is a natural process that the mind goes through every time we pull things from one time point into another time point. The act of placing it in the present now alters it. As Dr. Nate Kornell explains in Psychology Today:
“Police have to be very careful when questioning witnesses. They basically treat a witness’s memory like a crime scene: once you go over it a single time, it’s irreversibly disturbed. For example, asking a biased question, even unintentionally, can make a witness tell their story a little differently. Doing so doesn’t just change the story; it changes the witness’s memory, permanently and irreversibly. And this isn’t just true of witnesses. The more we tell stories, the more our memories change.”
Let this thought really marinate with you. What possibilities open up if the very things we look to as life shaping events can be viewed as inaccurate? Well, if they are not empowering, life affirming stories then you are free to discard them as fiction. And if you are dealing with fiction why not write your own?
If you were given the opportunity to re-write your childhood or your divorce how would you reframe it? Can you write a funny or affirming account of these life events? Play at this game for a while and see what the effects are on your psyche.
For example, if you grew up in a poor family who struggled with the burden of having not enough of anything, revisit your childhood through the eyes of a princess growing up in an opulent castle surrounded by many beautiful things. Then shift into today and see how this new story affects your feelings toward money.
Or perhaps you are carrying many scars from a bitter divorce. What if you closed you eyes and saw yourself sitting with your ex-partner at an outdoor café and heard your voice say, “Thanks for the many wonderful memories. We had some really good times but I now release us both to go forth and see what other wonderful adventures await us as we interact with new partners.” And then hear them say, “You are so right. I really appreciate the time we spent together. I bless you and release you to create a new and wonderful leg of your life journey.”
By re-scripting your last scene you rewire your emotional state. This is so important because we create what is in our present experience from the vantage point of our emotions. For example, on days you wake up excited everything seems to flow but on the days you wake up frustrated then everything and everyone annoys you. Your outer world has not dramatically changed, only your inner interpretation of the events or story has shifted.
You may have resistance to this exercise because you believe you have proof that these bad memories occurred. However, this exercise is not asking you to not trust yourself. The purpose of re-writing your stories is to allow in the possibilities of personal growth by removing the painful aspects of your stories so their lessons can shine through. But what if you bump up against resistance or can’t seem to re-write these events? Reach out and ask for help. There are many professional techniques that can disengage the painful active memories in your life.
So in the spirit of summer, unleash your inner child and play with this idea. Recreate your memories as fairy tales or maybe sci-fi thrillers with you having all kinds of cool super powers. Your reality is all within your control. Since you experience your past in the now, by changing your past you shift your present and redirect the course of your future. These new positive thoughts magnetize your vibrations to bring in other good thoughts and outcomes, thus creating a snowball effect of better and better stories that will play out in your future.
Please watch this amazing video and see the transformative power of telling yourself a new story: