From the time we are born to the time you are reading this blog, our life is a series of thoughts, feelings, emotions, experiences and beliefs. And the unusual blend of these ingredients coupled with our circumstances form our mindsets, judgements and how we view the world we live in and how we experience all of life.
Along the way as you go through and grow through each of these years you have lived, you develop a whole set of stories. Stories about who you are, how you see the world and how you interpret what you see.
Get your pen and paper together, and let’s do a little exercise that will help us discover how we created the stories about ourselves, what are some of the prominent stories of our lives, how are they serving us today, which ones make us stronger and which ones disempower us. Because it is only when we find these disempowering stories, can we change them.
Go back in time
Let’s do a little bit of time travel and visit all the years you have lived on this planet. As you move from 0 to 10, 10 to 20, 20 to 30 and so on…make a note of the highlights of these decade clusters. This list may include some of the big events of life like when you graduated, married, moved, when you fell in love, had your children, that memorable childhood trip, dream job, bought your house, lost a loved one, went through bullying, and so on.
While it is okay to highlight these, what I want you to become aware of is how you were experiencing life in these clusters of time. What emotions filled you when you got bullied, married, lost your job, won a game or when you first saw your soulmate.
This will give you a map of emotions that you experienced in your life all along the way. It will also give you an indication about the kind of person you are today – extrovert, trusting, introvert, shy, aggressive, insecure, confident and so on. Through these experiences of life you create your belief system and through these beliefs your mind creates stories – stories about yourself and stories of your interpretation of your experiences. And using these stories you communicate with the world.
The stories we tell about ourselves are very revealing. When you recall something that happened to you, your inquisitive imagination is irresistibly drawn to fill the gaps to make the story more dramatic, more funny or more compelling in some way. We like to mould the facts to suit our agenda, to give the story more power and to confirm or highlight some part of our personality. The act of giving your story purpose, reason and structure makes it appear so real that you also begin to believe in it, it becomes a part of you. – Sidra Jafri
So much so, that after a point we become our story and our story becomes us, because we are deeply intertwined with it and emotionally invested to the point that these stories have become our identities.
How they shape our today
These stories are essentially the vehicle through which our past continues to live in our present and plays a vital role in creating our future. Every time you recall, remember and relive the story it is further hardwired into all your 4 bodies as a deeper memory. In fact, so deep is the charge that a story holds, that even a mention of it makes your body feel the goosebumps or the throat clenching or tears well up in your eyes, your voice chokes and within moments, you are transported back in time to that moment in your past. Can you imagine how gripping this can be?
It is true that our story exists so we can make sense of what happened to us. Some of our self stories are uplifting and inspiring and give us strength when we are going through a tough patch. And other self stories keep us stuck in those emotions and memories that tell us we can’t do it, we are not enough, we can never be successful, it is not safe to trust again and so on.
The impact of your story
It is something that happened in your past and it may have happened just once. The event itself is over and those people have either moved away from your life or exist even today. But you are not in your past, you are in your present, as are they. You have evolved over your journey and have become stronger and wiser. But you still cling to that story, almost as if it is the theme of your life and make it your identity like Jayne does in this story.
Jayne’s story – Growing up Jayne went through a lot of bullying in school. This forced her to stay in a small safe group of people, because she thought strangers meant trouble. All through her school years she was quiet and reserved and no one really noticed her. She went on to finish college and landed herself a great job and had a flourishing career. Everytime someone she liked started to show interest and move close, she would shut them out. This made her live a loner’s life – because the childhood experience was living itself out in her present too. Strangers mean trouble.
By questioning the validity of your story and its relevance in your present, you can begin the process of letting go of your past disappointment, hurt, pain and anger and welcome new experiences in your lives. It is possible, no matter how hard it seems.
As long as you are bonded to your past you cannot create your future. Are you ready to let your story go?
Remember, what you do now is going to shape your tomorrow. No matter what you’ve been through, you can change your story today. When you let go you allow life to flow through you. You can’t be happy today if you are holding onto the past.
Disease happens when we don’t heal our past, the part in which we created our emotional wounds. Conscious living is the way we want to live our days ultimately. We are setting up our later years by choosing what we do with our today. How do we want to age – feeling alive and vital or feeling cranky and unwell?
The past has passed. The past is recorded in your memory. But you don’t have to play it and make it your present by creating the same emotion all over again. When you do this repeatedly you deepen the wound. You open the bandage and scratch the wound – how will it heal?
Drop the coal
Your disempowering story is like you holding a hot piece of coal in your hand with your fist tightly wrapped around it. Now it is all consuming and so wherever you go whichever opportunity you spot, you allow this story to lead your thoughts and conversations. Everyone around you, in a well meaning way, is trying to help. But nothing will work till you decide to drop that coal.
When you use your valuable energy on non-serving thoughts and activities, it will make you feel fatigued, hopeless and sad. Instead you can use this energy to create thoughts of what you want your today to look like and transform your life.
Where do you make a start?
Here is a step by step process for us to adopt in our journey towards letting our stories go.
Catch yourself in the act Acknowledging this process can be challenging since it occurs automatically. Often, we are unaware of it happening. Developing awareness is a crucial initial step. To catch yourself in the act, utilise this knowledge to cultivate mindfulness and promptly identify restrictive beliefs when they arise. For instance, when you find yourself saying, “I can’t do that,” “I’m too young,” or “I lack experience,” it indicates the existence of a detrimental story underlying that belief. This leads us to the second step.
Analyze your stories Where are your stories coming from? Are they even true? You need to identify where the stories you tell yourself come from. What is their point of creation? Is it in your early teens or adulthood, or somewhere in your childhood? You can’t move forward and choose a different story without first taking this step and uncovering the origin of this story. .
Choose a better story For every tale you have about why you are incapable of achieving something, there exists another story you can tell yourself, emphasizing why you can succeed. Discover that story and hold onto it. It’s important to remember that you don’t always need to uncover grand, life-altering narratives. Sometimes, a single positive remark from someone you respect carries more weight than a negative memory from your past. The significance lies not necessarily in the magnitude of the story, but in the emotions it evokes when you recall it.
Install your new stories Once you’ve chosen your new stories, you need to start telling yourself those stories at key and critical moments until they become your automatic thoughts. This will take practice, but over time, these stories will help you stop spiralling. It’s easier said than done, but when you start to catch your original story popping up, say to yourself, “I see you. But now, I have this other story, so you can sit down.”
If you looked at life as if it were an iceberg, the submerged part is your past, the part above the water is your present. Your stories show up in your present. So when you use the above process and catch a line to your story, hold on to it and go all the way to the bottom of the iceberg, that is your past and look for the points of creation of where this story began. The first exercise of clustering your age will be a handy guide for you to explore your past and uncover the making of these stories.
When you do the above, and find some interesting stories, where they come from and you are ready to change your story, listen to this guided meditation to help you release all of it with ease and grace.