How many of us tell ourselves stories?
Not the bedtime kind, nor the perfect crafted happy ending kind. I'm talking about our own internal stories that reflect how we view the world, good or bad. These are assessments or opinions we have gathered over a lifetime that become our reality, even if not grounded in truth. Over time, these become so much a part of our persona that we don't know the difference between what is fact and what is fiction. Our stories become fact to us, and that is the basis from which we operate -- the choices we make, the decision we execute, and how we interact with others. The stories become embedded in us even if they are false.
So how does his happen? My belief is that through the years, we encounter situations through which we gather data to make sense of the world. (I'm guessing that there is a whole ton of psychology and research that backs this up much more scientifically than I state here). Over time, we seek out evidence that supports and reinforces our hypotheses. Sometimes it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: "I have been out of work for awhile, so who would want to hire me?" Or "I recently got divorced, I'm damaged goods now." So we don't apply for that job, or we don't go on that date, solely to confirm our opinion. It's almost as if we seek out data, solutions, or lack thereof to "prove" our story is right. It's the classic definition of insanity -- doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Easy to read and comprehend, but so hard and daunting to do in practice.
One of the best ways to identify and break down these stories is to article the definition and characteristics of facts vs. fiction. In his book Language and the Pursuit of Happiness, Chalmers Brothers discusses the various parts of language, specifically the distinctions between assertions and assessments. An article on his website articulates several characteristics of these two speech acts, including the following:
Assertions can be true or false, and are always verifiable (or not) by an objective third party. Assessments are personal judgments and can be grounded (consciously connected to standards and facts) or not. They can never be "proven" true or false objectively.
Imagine if we took an honest, truthful look at what we hold true as "fact" and verifiable. I think about the stories and assessments I hold onto that are not fact, especially those that that may not be serving we well. It can be like a virtual library in my head sometimes, with the volume of stories I hold onto. Blowing apart the stories seem too daunting to me, so I'm trying with baby steps and slight tweaks. Just a slight shift in my perspective allows me to change the next plot turn, and potentially the ending.
Think about the possibilities that could be created by changing even a couple of components of our internal stories. We would have the power to let go of portions of the story that no longer serve us or gets in our way. We could rewrite the ending or even quite frankly, our assessment of the beginning or middle. We could create new stories and plot twists by tweaking just a few minor components of our tall tales. We would be our own author and fully realize the power stroke of the pen to create a new future. Who knows what the ending to your story may be?
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