Stories Influence Circumstances

Tonight, I mentioned to my chiropractor that I often slouch.  He told me to stop saying that.  It was yet another reminder of how much we are affected by the stories we tell.  Perhaps I won’t slouch so much if I stop describing myself that way.

I wrote about this topic in my last post, and I think it’s worth expounding upon:  Our circumstances are the products of the stories we tell ourselves.  We can alter or reinforce our feelings with these stories.  And yet, how often do we check in with those tales to verify their validity and make a determination about whether or not a particular story is appropriate for where we want to go in life?

Example:  I can make the statement, “My husband cheated on me.”  It’s a sad statement and it might make me angry or depressed.  I could replay this statement in my mind every day- painting myself as the sorry victim over and over again.  As time goes by, I might learn to ignore the discomfort that comes with this fact.  I might move on and try to forget that “my husband cheated on me,” but the knowledge is still there.

Now… let’s look at this story a little closer.  Is it true?  At one time, it was.  But not anymore.  These days, I don’t have a husband.  So how could he cheat on me?

One might suggest I rephrase and say, “my ex-husband cheated on me.”  That’s more accurate, right?  Eh… is it?  I mean… did he cheat on me?  I’m gonna have to say, “no.”  The woman who experienced that infidelity lived in a different house, in a different town.  She wore different clothes, drove a different car and had a different job.  She even had a different name.  That woman faded away long ago as she evolved into the individual who is typing these words right now.  I’m no longer that person.  I’m no longer that victim.  In truth, I’m also no longer the heroine who left her cheating husband (Let’s be honest, right?  That chapter has passed).

Divorce brings with it many stories- and most of them aren’t happy ones.  As we live the day-to-day drama, we tell those ugly tales over and over to friends, family members, therapists and lawyers who ask “What’s new?” or “How are you doing?”  As time marches on, those sagas get stuck on “repeat” in our heads and our hearts.  They drive our emotions, which drive our actions, which create our circumstances.  That chatter in our heads blinds us to the present by keeping us prisoners of the past, suffering the effects of someone else’s story.

Pema Chodron suggests, “Feel the feeling and drop the story.”  That’s a wonderful aspiration.  Unfortunately it’s a little difficult for those of us who are less enlightened- it’s hard to just drop it, especially during tough times when we need to cling to something.

So, then what?  If you find yourself replaying a mental mixed-tape (i.e.:  a poorly recorded soundtrack of a love-gone-bad), stop and listen to the lyrics.  Then take inventory of your current life.  Does the soundtrack still fit the story?  If not, it’s time for a new cerebral CD.

The new story shouldn’t include past details (at least, not too many of them).  Try incorporating the present circumstances, along with a bit about where you’re headed or what you want for yourself.  For me, it’s something like, “I make delicious toast.  I’m writing my second novel.  And I have excellent posture.”



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