So, what’s your story? Much of what we know about history comes from the stories handed down throughout the generations. The art of storytelling is a way to help us relate to people, places and events. We also have our own stories we recite to others and ourselves in regards to our past, present and future.
We remember events from elementary, middle and high school, interactions with our parents, siblings and our first girl/boyfriend. We recall memories from college, dating, a marriage, a personal triumph and/or the birth of a child. Unfortunately, we also have stories of traumatic events whether within relationships like a divorce, the death of a loved one or accidents in life such as a fire or a car crash.
In this three part series, we will explore how the nature of the stories we share about our life, impacts the relationship we have with others and ourselves. In part one, we will examine the three aspects of how we construct our stories. In part two, we will delve into our meaning belief cycle and the ramifications of this occurrence. In part three, we will learn a strategy for how we can change and transform our negative self-limiting stories so we live a life we love to live.
The most difficult challenges we face in order to live a truly flexible, peaceful, loving and joyful life involves the following three points. 1) Understanding the enormous influence our beliefs have on how we describe the story we tell about our life. 2) How our story impacts the way we evaluate our present experience. 3) The effect this evaluation has on the decisions we make moment to moment regarding how we show up in our relationships.
When we tell our stories to others, and ourselves, we use unique verbal and non-verbal modes of communicating. Over time we develop an unconscious narrative habit about the way we express these stories. Engrained in this habit is a pattern of language consisting of our relational traits - thoughts, emotions and behaviors that comprise the essence of this dialogue.
These scripts from our “History Channel” are about ourselves, others and events. The segments concern our past, present and future. When we begin to explore the elements of a story, there are three aspects upon which we need to consider. These include 1) the global meanings, 2) the actual language of the narrative and 3) the levels of emotional intensity of “key words and phrases” we use repetitively.
First, let’s examine the global meaning of a story. After you watch a movie, how would you classify and describe it? Would you say it is a terrifying horror flick or a sit on the edge of your seat suspense thriller? Is it an outrageous belly laughing comedy or a fun, happy, feel good movie? Was it an uplifting, inspiring and motivating film or a sad, depressing painful movie? Would you call it a mind-bending dramatic drama or a heartbreaking tearjerker story? Using these categories or others you can think of, how would you describe the global nature of a story you are repeatedly rehashing in your mind today?
Next, as we explore the second aspect, try to identify the actual language we continually use and how it impacts the way we evaluate our present experience. Does the narrative tell a story that reflects acceptance, empathy, flexibility, peace, love and self-empowerment? Or is it based on judgment, irritation, blaming, suffering, animosity and dis-empowerment? Is the script written in such a way that directs us towards others where we enjoy being a helpful volunteer? Or does it cause us to focus on ourselves where we feel like a helpless victim?
What would one discover by dissecting the language of a current story and examining the thoughts, emotions and behaviors embedded in the snippets of their script?
The third aspect is the level of language we habitually use to tell our stories. Consider a rating scale from zero to ten. Zero represents the lowest score and ten is the highest. In the following examples, the numbers listed after each word represents the emotional rating of intensity for the words used.
Let’s say we develop a story about an event that happened last week in regards to our significant other or something that happened at work. How do we tell our story? Do we use words like challenging -3 or disastrous -7? Do we say we are little upset -2 or do we say we are furious -8? Do we say the other is acting rudely -4 or that the other is absolutely mean and cruel -9?
Think back and see if you can identify a pattern for the way you repeatedly use unique words and phrases to describe your experiences. Do you routinely use words that range in intensity from 1-5, which helps you stay open, centered and flexible?
Or, do you have a habit of using more emotionally intense or catastrophizing language? These 6-10 words and phrases can elevate our story to an extreme level of thoughts, emotions and behaviors leading us to move out of flow into the dangerous reactive states of rigidity and chaos.
In part 2 of 3, we will explore our wonderful world of MBC – our Meaning Belief Cycle and examine the impact this has on how we show up in our relationships.