(Read below or watch the video here.)
Every story we tell ourselves has two parts – the facts – those are external - and the stories we tell ourselves about what those facts mean – that’s completely internal and highly individual. One part we often cannot control. The other part we can learn to command.
We are in the midst of a huge opportunity to see these two parts very distinctly and to examine how they are playing out in our own lives, in our thoughts and inner dialogues, in our beliefs and habits.
We are being called by what is happening in the world right now to examine the stories we tell ourselves about these facts.
The facts are just the facts. There is a pandemic virus. People all over the world are getting sick and dying at horrendous rates. Almost everything beyond those basic facts are part of the stories we are telling ourselves about those facts. What do these facts mean to me and about me, to my loved ones and about my loved ones? We don’t know for sure, but it is so tempting to act as if the story we are each telling ourselves is absolute truth.
Even within your own circle, you probably know some people who are stressed and worried. Others who are calmly preparing. Others who are embracing this time to do things they’ve been putting off, anything from deep cleaning the house to creating their own retreat at home. And yet all of those people are coming from the same set of facts. So we know the stories we tell ourselves about the facts are internal and highly individual because not everyone tells themselves the same stories about the same facts.
Calamity is a potent teacher. If we can learn to see this this distinction in the midst of this catastrophe, then we can carry forward and begin using this same approach in all our self-stories.
The language, the STORY, of I can’t do this or I never do that or I always get sick or…whatever. That language, that self story, has never served us, but now it’s being called into the spotlight where we can see it, so we can examine it. That gives you, me, all of us who are alive right now, the opportunity to decide what language we use and what story we tell ourselves.
This opportunity to decide this part of the story for ourselves is one we have always had every day of our lives. But it typically takes something big to get our attention and this situation is a whopper.
Now more than ever, we must learn to abandon our non-nurturing self-talk, our non-nurturing stories. Our old mental and emotional ruts.
But that doesn’t mean to pretend the self-story doesn’t exist. It has its roots somewhere in something that happened to you and taught you this is how to tell your stories.
The stories we tell ourselves behave a lot like toddlers. Or cats. When my girls were little, they excelled at ignoring me. They could entertain themselves and do their thing, which was often fine, but as little kids, it was sometimes destructive even if they didn’t mean for it to be. But just let me go into the bathroom and suddenly there would be a little hand poking under the door. They didn’t want to be ignored. They needed a word of acknowledgement, of reassurance that I remembered their existence.
The same thing happens with the stories we tell ourselves about the facts in our lives. If we just try to slam the door on them and ignore them, they are going to bang on that door, stick their hands under it, maybe even throw tantrums. But I’m a part of you. Don’t ignore me!
Remember, though, if we acknowledged our children when they are sticking their fingers under the door, if we reassured them that we love them, they gradually become OK with not being in that part of our lives.
The same goes with the stories we tell ourselves. Those stories come out of a lifetime of piled up experiences that developed into beliefs, and those beliefs direct our thoughts and actions. SO if we can start with our habitual self storytelling, we can begin our transformation.
Human transformation in general, if we are honest, can be raw, ugly, hopeful, frustrating, beautiful, frightening, and ultimately divine. The reality is that we’ve stayed distracted from our own transformation because of our busyness. Because of the language we habitually use. And more than anything because of the stories we tell ourselves about what everything means, about what we mean and what we are – or are not – capable of.
What if we let this time of cocooning distract us from our busyness and instead pay attention to the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and our circumstances.
What if we invite this time of enforced staying at home to distract us from our old habits, to break us out of the rut of our old habits? To embrace being slow. To pay attention instead of sliding past in a hurry.
What if we let this time distract us from our habitual ways of thinking and doing and even feeling? To change how we see the world collectively and ourselves as individuals. Because the world is our collective work and our collective story.
We can use this disaster to tear down all our old faulty assumptions and give us the courage of bold new ideas, approaches, and habits. We can use it to dig ourselves out of our ruts.
On other side, when we emerge from this cocoon, is a new normal. It may not look much like our old normal, just like the butterfly doesn’t look like the caterpillar. And we don’t yet know what will make the cut.
But what we do know is that on the other side of this cataclysm, our wonderful, creative, resilient minds will be waiting and hoping we will have freed them from our rut, from the prison of our habitual inner stories.
Gradually, everything new will begin to feel more natural. Our new normal will feel like just plain old normal. Humans are astoundingly resilient. And once you have created a crack in the armor of your habitual storytelling, you’ll become more comfortable with changing or undoing what’s been in motion. Or perhaps more accurately, what’s been stagnating. In getting off of autopilot and becoming more aware.
Once you have broken this rut, new ideas will begin emerge that would not have occurred to you had you stayed in the denial of your self-story rut. If you are willing to continue to embrace your mental, emotional, and spiritual shifts, you ready to accept that this is a lifelong marathon. It is infused into the bone structure of your becoming. And like with any marathon, if you sprint at the beginning, you will find yourself vomiting on your shoes. Or if you run in the wrong direction, you’ll find yourself coming in last or never coming in at all.
And you might be tempted to say that validates that mantra of “I can’t,” but don’t fall for that temptation. It only validates that becoming who we are, like any other goal in life, sometimes has times of difficulty, even pain. Like what happens inside the cocoon before the butterfly emerges.
Instead, emotionally prepare for this and any crisis. Tell yourself your story does not end today and does not have to end with today’s thought patterns or storytelling habits. Be willing to be pleasantly surprised by your own progress rather than measuring yourself based on speed or arriving at some imaginary destination. Right now, focus on establishing your own serenity, productivity, and wellness. When you feel stressed, anxious, or afraid, pause. Ask yourself what story you are telling yourself about the facts. The facts are scarier than many of us have faced before. But ask yourself in this moment, am I safe. As safe as I can be. Am I doing what is best for me or succumbing to my old self story patterns.
None of us knows how long this crisis or any crisis will last. The uncertainty drives us all mad. But we also have the opportunity to treat this situation like training wheels, teaching us the skills and confidence to ride safely on our own.
Every day, we wake up at the beginning of our own personal journey, in our own personal storytelling mode. For many of us, our minds have not quite come to terms with the fact that the world has already changed. And so we live in some limbo of denial.
Denial only creates more stress and more unhelpful self-storytelling. It only delays the absolutely essential process of acceptance, and it’s that acceptance of the facts combined with adopting possibly a new habit regarding the stories we tell ourselves about the facts, or upgrading the process we have, because allows us to reimagine ourselves.
So yes, every story has two parts – the facts and the stories we tell ourselves about these facts. Not only during a crisis, but in every moment of every day. The stories we tell ourselves can nurture hope and resilience or fear and resistance.
And that choice is always ours.
Are you curious about what it means to Become Found and the role played by the stories we tell ourselves? Please join us in our private Becoming Found community on Facebook.
Anne Wade is Teacher, Writer, Mentor, and Coach for courageous women in midlife and beyond who want to disrupt their own status quo and design life on their own terms, even in turbulent times. She has developed the Becoming Found process of going within to find and address the inner barriers we have all inadvertently built up against love, happiness, health, wealth and any other desires of our hearts. Teaching women to unapologetically shine like a superstar and live their legacy is Anne’s mission. You can follow her on her Facebook page “Anne Wade – Becoming found” or join her “Becoming Found” Facebook group.