What Story Are You Telling Yourself?
Two people can experience the same event, yet see it in different ways.
"When we deny our stories, they define us," said Brene' Brown, "When we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending."
This happens all the time at accident scenes. Eyewitnesses often give conflicting accounts. The difference isn't in the facts -- but rather, in how the facts are interpreted.
When writing books, I share many stories that involve other people. My publisher makes me obtain permission from the people who are going to be in the book. I send them the passage where they are mentioned and they usually reply, "I remember it a little differently."
Then I respond, "Of course, it happened this way. I recall it clearly."
And they reply, "No, it happened like this. . ."
So I go back do a bunch of editing until the story matches, at least to some degree, how we both remember it.
Why does this happen? I'm not making things up. I really remember it that way -- but we end up with different perspectives based on how we processed the event.
We all have stories to interpret the facts. Brene' Brown astutely observed that when we don't have a complete story, we fill in the gaps with our own narratives. Stories are important because they are the only way we can understand and interpret our experiences.
We can share the same experiences, but walk away with different stories, based on our interpretations.
When you approach a group of friends, and they suddenly stop talking, how do you interpret that?
When you receive a poor performance evaluation, what story plays in your mind?
When a family member is upset, how do you explain this to yourself?
When you face an unexpected hardship, what meaning do you draw it?
Your "in the gap" story might be true or it false -- but it is your story, and makes sense to you.
But what if you are telling yourself the wrong story? What if you weren't even on the minds (and tongues) of those friends who stopped talking? What if the poor performance evaluation has more to do with character development than value? What if your upset loved ones are just expressing their own inner conflicts? What if the hardship is really a pathway to health?
Can you re-think it? Sometimes, our false stories need to be recognized and challenged.
On October 10, 1907, the German poet, Rainer Rilke, spent the entire day visiting an exhibit of the great artist, Cezanne. He spent hours gazing at the masterpieces, trying to understand them. In a letter to his wife, he said, "I remember the puzzlement and insecurity of one's first confrontation with his work, along with his name, which is just as new. And then, for a long time nothing, and suddenly one has the right eyes."
As we encounter the various events of life, it takes some serious reflection to "have the right eyes" and to see the right kind of story in order to "write a brave new ending."