Welcome to my return to blogging. I'm going to start with an excerpt from my next book. My intention is to have a post every week. I am not sure of which day that will be and there will be another day each week where I highlight a media post from either my YouTube channel or my Podcasts. It has been said that blogging is dead but I am uncertain how else word can be shared effectively with people across a wide spectrum of locations. Feel free to subscribe at the bottom of this webpage, which it reads subscribe. See picture to the right.
Enjoy: (this post is approximately a 6 minute read)
My next book is about the story in our head and how it shapes our view of our world. Below is an excerpt.
Who are you?
Who are you? Take a few moments and compose your answer. What did you say? Did you talk about your job? Your children, your spouse? How much of it revolved around what you do? How much ran through your mind that you didn’t actually say or put down? Did you think something and then think you needed to add the words, “I try to be…” in front it? Did you think something and negate it because that’s what other people do?
Whenever I ask people this question, I can watch their face as they edit their response. Somewhere between their cognitive thoughts on the answer and their actual answer there is a roadblock that acts as a filter. It stops them from moving the answer out into space. They don’t speak it because there is a voice that tells them it’s false. This voice creates tension and the tension gives birth to fear.
The fear shuts it down.
And sometimes, perhaps most of the time, the fear gives birth to the negative narrative running just inside fence of our cognitive home. Then your answer becomes filled with all of the things you’re not. It begins to moan and scream about the things you can’t do, the things you tied and failed at doing. It might whisper about the things you want to do but assume you’re too poorly equipped to accomplish. It might flaunt your past as proof of your future failures. Suddenly, out of nowhere comes that time in the third grade where you did that thing and all those people laughed at you.
The pain becomes almost visceral. So you shut it all down and go with the safe answers about who you are. You just put the things out there with the least amount of risk. And the next time you ponder who are you, you have another chapter in the story to remind you of who you are not.
That’s the power of the story in your head. To actually live the life you want to live, to be fully alive you have to deal with that story and it is often a tempest that buffets you like a spring storm coming off the coast to swallow up towns and destroy homes.
The story creates meaning.
And what could have higher stakes than the meaning we attach to our own identity?
This is why so many people engage in false identity building destructive behaviors. Think about the bully for a moment? What are they really doing? Most of the time, they are trying to soothe the pain in their own soul by imitating others. The bully is trying to create a story in his head that says he’s safe or that he’s strong enough to keep himself safe. She might be trying to create a story that details how she has worth. None of these false flag attempts at story building justify the actions of a bully but they can give us insight.
No matter how you answer, the words are first filtered by the story in your head. Do a a little exercise for me, take out a sheet of paper and write the words, “I am…” now just start filling in all the things that pop into your mind. No matter what it is, just write it down. Write down the name your Uncle called you when you were eight. Write down the name that boy called you in college, when you refused to sleep with him. Write down that thing your drunk parent said that one night all those years ago. Write down all the terrible, horrible things your ex said to you before, during and after the divorce.
You’re a slut.
You’re just like your dad…
You’re such a judgmental asshole.
You’re a goody two shoes.
You’re a failure
You’re a nerd.
You’re a jock.
You’re a loser.
You’re too fat.
You’re too skinny.
You’re just a girl.
You’re a stupid boy.
You’re too emotional.
The list usually goes on and on, especially when we talk about the negative things. In fact, about thirty years ago as a society we decided to try to combat this story by writing a fictional one on the hearts and minds of each student, child in our country. We did it from a good place. We figured if it was wrong when it came out of our mouth, it would be right enough that we would build a new story in our children’s heads. We’d create a new narrative that could filter the bad one out.
We made everyone winners. No one was left out. We tried to artificially improve self esteem by creating a fictional story that everyone can win. There’s a problem with that story; our hearts know it isn’t accurate. Our hearts now that there has to be a greater framework for our own story. We inherently know that we can’t be given a good story. We have to earn it.
We have to create it. We have to struggle with it. We have to craft it. And someone “giving” us a good story doesn’t actually do much to change the running narrative in our head.
The problem is that the voice in our head is often working to discount any and all of the positives running through our story. My daughter works for our company. She does an amazing job. She occasionally makes mistakes. She freely told me one time that she wonders how the other employees look at her. Do they discount her work because she’s the owner’s daughter. Do they look down on her because of her place in life.
The attack on our good story can be devastating.
Let me put it another way. Why do you wear the clothes you wear? Why do you choose to wear some and not others? How many of your clothing choices are because of what you hope they make you look like? Until you see a picture? Then your story gets loud and boisterous again.
It’s not to say that we don’t have good stories that run through our head. When I asked the “You are…” question from earlier in the chapter on facebook, I had people respond with postive answers. In person, when I drill down on the positive stories running through someone’s head, it usually starts with someone having told them the story.
In other words, the voice in our head that tells us the story usually takes the form of other people’s voice. Given the power the story in our head has, that should al least give us a moment or ten to pause and consider what voices we’re letting talk to us. It should cause us to stop and really consider what narrative we’re creating in other people’s minds.
Our story in our head creates the frame work that we use to see the whole world. It gives meaning to everything. Even down to colors. What color is your shirt? Why is it that color? Most of the time when I ask this question to people, they look at me like I’m a little off. They say something to the effect, “well, because that’s the color it was made at the factory.” To which, I almost always reply, “No, why is that shade blue?”
Eventually, they look at me and say, “Oh! Because we agree as a society that is what we call it.” Which is true. The answer just skips a step. We first interpret the shade that we see and story in our head tells us that society calls it blue and I want to fit into society so I’ll call it blue as well. You and I could decide to call it bajunga, and completely make up a word or we could choose to call blue, red and completely change the process.
Let’s take a look at made up words for a moment. How many made up words do you have for different things? I’ve lived in many different parts of the country. Where I grew up, some people would tell you something “was all…” What does that mean? To those people, it meant it was all gone. Now you might be laughing but I assure you that my art teacher was not laughing when I didn’t understand her and actually asked her why she didn’t just say the paint was all gone in seventh grade.
Everywhere I have lived there have been certain words that meant something specific for that area. We attach meaning to words and connotations to them that create even more meaning. This is important because our thoughts run through our brain words! I know that sounds like an almost “duh” statement, and I think almost everyone needs to step back and truly ponder the impact of that statement for a moment.
Our positive thoughts may grow healthy blocks of proper understanding and perspective. When words or truth (not fiction) are planted, the result can be beautiful and life giving. We have a beautiful garden and sculpture park in our town. There are places where you can walk into a tropical environment or you can walk through a dessert scene with plants and trees that probably wouldn’t do as well out in typical Michigan weather. It’s beautiful and amazing.
But imagine if they stopped working on it. Imagine if they stopped doing the things necessary to protect those plants and trees from the harsh Michigan winters. Imagine if they stopped working to remove the things that could create disease, infection and even death for those trees and plants. Imagine if they just allowed everyone to just lead the doors open (the dessert room can get quite hot). It would not be long until there would be real problems for all of the living things in those rooms. One room has beautiful butterflies and float and flitter her and there enthralling everyone in the room with their breath taking beauty. To get into that room, you have to stand in line and then walk through and entrance/exit room that has doors on two ends. You cannot exit without a thorough investigation from the staff to make sure that no wayward butterflies try to hitch a ride with you out into the beautiful Michigan spring.
Our negative thoughts, our false thoughts are like bugs of disease for our life. They threaten the story that could take place. They often threaten the positive stories that do take place. They create danger for us mentally, emotionally and even physically. How else does someone come to the place of suicide in their life but to be living with the bugs of a negative and false story in their head infecting every aspect of how they view themselves?
We need to employ the same type of scrutiny measures that our local garden and sculpture park have to protect the life of those plants and trees. It truly can be a matter of life and death. We need to examine the voices we allow to speak into our story. We need to evaluate them for credibility and health. We need to empower ourselves to take control of our own story and strive for the story we want in our lives.
We need new eyes to see all that is
Think about a white board for a moment. Most of our therapy rooms have at least one in them. I will often stand up and walk over to the board and I will draw a circle or a few geometric shapes. Then I’ll ask my client what they see. They quickly name all of the shapes on the board. They don’t mention seeing the white board. They don’t mention the wall. They don’t mention the awesome picture of a guy fishing. They only mention the shapes on the white board. Why? Do they not actually see it? Of course they see it. How else could they tell me about the shapes they see?
They filter all of those things about because the story in their mind tells them that those things are tangental to the point. They deem them not important. And to be fair, ninety-nine times out of one hundred, they would be correct. But this particular time they are wrong, because I want them to see the greater context of what is going. I want them to move beyond seeing it and actually evaluate it. I want them to consider how it fits into the greater context of the question. They need to expand their eyes. We have see the whole picture because the driving narrative in our head will direct everything. It will have multiple venues, and multiple sources of creation but it will direct the entire course of our lives.
Taking time to examine the things we filter out of our active thought processes regarding our lives indicates a proper view of self. It’s probably our best way to begin the process of changing the negative stories that are running the negative actions and reactions in our life. When left unchecked, these inputs will create a story that shapes the entirety of our life.
This is why we go back to destructive behaviors over and over again. Because the story in our head tells us that the behavior has a payoff. Perhaps, safety, perhaps familiarity, perhaps something else but there is always a payoff.