Updated: Jan 31
Everybody loves a good story: books, tv, movies. In fact, we love them so much that we tell them to ourselves but not for entertainment.
A man tells himself that his boss has been treating him distantly, impersonally because he is going through a difficult time (with the economic down-turn), but that his job is secure, that he is essential
for the company’s success.
A woman tells herself that her relationship is solid, that they are deeply in love, soul mates, and that his increasing distance is stress from work.
How often do people tell themselves a story? *That noise in the car. It’s probably nothing; *The Roof? It will be okay for a few more months; *Chest pains? No, they weren't that serious.
Self-stories are all about protecting ourselves from an unpleasant truth, as well as avoiding the need to take action.
Seeing reality, of course, keeps us from being caught short, caught by surprise or caught devastated; and, it puts us in an enviable position of strength (a place from which we can act).
The man above can ask his boss directly, find he is to be terminated and begin a job search today. The woman, rather than dragging out a failing relationship, can free herself to find the right guy, and facing the car, the roof and those chest pains is better than not—always.
Note - When we agree with our reality, we never tell ourselves a story about 'how it is' - never
- because we do not need it.
The problem is that our stories are so much a part of us, it can be difficult to realize when we are telling ourselves one.
Jan and I had been friends forever, and she was talking about her fiancé: how much he cared about her and how relieved she was, finally, to be in a good relationship.
When she paused, I asked her, “So, what's wrong?”
She frowned and shook her head.
I took a deep breath and said, “When you talk about him, your voice is, um, too cheery; and it has, well, an edge to it.”
She shook her head, and again asked, “What are you talking about?”
Later that night, she called and immediately said, “He won’t talk to me.”
I began to ask, but she was already saying, “We talk about absolutely everything superficial, but when I bring up something like his feelings for me, or having children or even sex, he suddenly changes the subject or becomes busy.”
Over the next few days, she kept coming back to her problem and eventually realized that she was telling herself a story about their relationship, a story she desperately wanted to be true; and one that helped hide a frustrating reality that she did not want to face (breaking up and dating again).
Some days after that revelation, we were grabbing a quick coffee, when she said, “Admitting the reality under my story was hard, but it allowed me to make a much-needed change.”
Before I could ask if she was single again, she added, “I think it might be your turn.”
I hesitated and then quietly asked what she meant.
She crossed her arms and said: “Before, when I talked about my fiancé, my voice and manner were different. When you talk about your writing, you are different.
Cautiously, I asked, "How?"
She leaned forward and said, “I know how much you want to be a successful writer, but… well, at the beginning of a project, you sound excited and talk as if it were already a success; but I rarely hear that it has sold or even been finished.”
I glanced at my watch and was relieved to see that I had to leave, but Jan’s words stayed with me.
Over the following weeks, I began to see the story I was telling myself: that writing was a tough market; that my progress was as fast as could be expected; and that success was coming; I just had to be patient.
And then I started to see the reality: I was not writing nearly as much as was necessary, and I tended to let projects languish. I was also putting off difficult phone calls to editors.
It was during my struggle with this that I realized I was telling myself yet another story, about the good relationship I had with my children. Although we talked weekly, and sometimes got together, the reality was that they never called me first; and whether on the phone or in person, they only shared the surface of their lives.
The next time Jan and I met, I told her about my children. She said that she had also been looking at other parts of her life, and in her words, “It seems that when reality matches my desire, I don’t have a story. I don’t need one.”
I have more thinking to do about this, but one thing I know right now: admitting reality admits the possibility of a positive change.
I guess this is the part where I am supposed to tell you to "Confront your stories! Accept reality!!!
But I can’t. We can't, because of —
Denial? The act of seeing what is not there in order to avoid what is.
A car suddenly jumped out from a side street. The moment the driver saw me, and my motorcycle, the instant she realized her mistake, she looked in the opposite direction (and never looked back).
Some people use the word denial as an accusation, but is it really so bad? After all, nature took the trouble to hardwire us for survival, and isn’t denial
just another form of self-preservation, another strategy for getting through
life? Why would the woman in that car, or anyone else faced with pain, want to step wide-eyed into the harsh, cold, reality of it all, especially when the cocoon of denial is so warm and comforting?
You are probably already on your feet arguing that denial makes for an insecure foundation, for ineffective living, and you would be right; but there is one overriding truth that cannot be argued.
In most situations, for most of the time, we can do nothing about our denial—nothing—because of one blinding question: What denial?
Those two words are powerful enough to lock in what is (desperately?) needed and lock out everything else, and no mountain of clear logic nor ocean of passionate rhetoric will move us to see until we are ready.
And yes, most denial lasts longer than a momentary flinch from an oncoming motorcycle.
The crash? It was so close I pulled over and sat on the curb shaking. She kept driving, probably convincing herself that everything was fine, A-Okay; what motorcycle?
Self-honesty? Effective living? Sure, why not? But until that glorious moment when the fog lifts, the sun comes out and our eyes finally open, all we can do is what we have always done.
Lifting the Fog Sooner
Most of us have more than one story. The key to facing what we do not want to face is to do it slowly.
Start by saying aloud (many times?): If I am telling myself 'how it is' then I know for sure it is not that way. Once that realization sinks in, begin looking for those times you find yourself explaining to you 'how it is.'
And write it/them down. Write with no need to do anything else.
When you are ready, choose one and set it out on the kitchen table, under the remote or in any conspicuous place. And go on with your life.
Each time you see your story, you will wonder what is underneath, and be one step closer to the truth, but with no pressure to do anything about it. Note - each time you see it, be sure to relax by breathing out the tension.
This way, in your own time, you will come to the truth.
At some point, you will want to take action. And each time you do, big or small (regardless of the outcome), your inner-strength will increase, as you take another step to creating a better life.
"Suffering is basically the minds refusal to accept reality as it is." Marcus Thomas
All he ever wanted...
His business was deep in the red, and he was now desperate.
I asked him, “If there was one person on the planet who is holding you back, who would it be?”
He immediately said, “My Mother.”
She was giving him money to keep his business afloat. She had also given him the down payment for his house and had recently taken over the payments.
His insight: "I'm 30 years old and still (like a child) dependent on my mother!"
The power of a deep insight is that it cannot be unseen; it tends to stay with us, prodding, pushing and motivating us into a permanent change.
That one insight put him on a path to becoming the man, and success, he had always wanted to be.
Discover Your Own Life-Changing Insight: Free
So many people spend their lives trying to change but stay stuck: being overweight; or trapped in money problems, or an unfulfilling relationship, or a stalled career.
But one, deep insight, one eye-widening moment, can begin leaving that pain behind.
And you can discover your own deep insight with either of these 2 simple techniques:
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All She ever wanted...
She was saying, “If only I could find the right guy, I would give myself to him, and—"
I stopped her and asked, “Give your SELF?” Her eyes widened as she realized what she had said and what she had been doing.
A deep insight can, indeed, bring permanent change, and yes, you don’t need me. Who is This Guy?
Why am I encouraging you to find your own answers? Every time we even try for personal understanding, our inner strength increases—a bit more—and that strength translates into other areas of our lives.
Either of these 2 simple techniques can bring you the answers you need, as well as increase your strength. And it's all free. Get started now:
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More on facing reality:
How to Face Reality and Make Peace with Yourself (Oprah)
The Art of Facing Reality
Facing reality brings inner-strength. So does never being defensive again.
The very foundation of personal improvement is self-care/self-love. At this link: