We all have a constant dialogue running in our heads. It is our story teller. We are wired to do this. We actually reward ourselves when we tell ourselves a complete story by releasing the pleasure hormone, oxytocin. Much of this I learned from a course I am taking on Courage Works with Brene Brown (http://www.courageworks.com/classes/living-brave-semester/lessons. The issue is we automatically believe the story, whether it is true or not.
I find that I am a consummate story teller in my head. I react very quickly to situations and it can be as minute as a look. Off in my head will go a whole scenario with a beginning, middle and end. For example, a simple look from someone will trigger my automatic reaction to my lack of self-worth and I take the look to mean I have done something. Then I will concoct a reason such as there must be something wrong with my physical appearance that made them look at me that way. I will then come up with a defense mechanism, which may be a snotty look of my own. That will put that person off, because in their head, they will do the same thing. The end of the story is they don’t like me and we react negatively to each other which only reinforce the story. I accept this and feel satisfied because in my head it makes sense. The hormones rewards me and I take this as gospel. But the truth is, when I walked in, she was even thinking about me, she had gas. She looks up and sees me glowering at her, and reacts.
Not only do we tell stories but we also automatically go to the negative side of things. We are also programmed to do that. It is call negative bias. We are hardwired to look for the danger in things as a safety mechanism. When a person is repeatedly exposed to constant trauma such as mental and physical abuse, this negative bias is rooted so deeply that it can be insurmountable to overcome. Trust is non-existent. The story mechanism bases its content on the facts of history within the person. So if someone has had negative outcomes from interpersonal relationships, especially if they were intimate relationships, the foundation for negativity is huge. It is the go-to end to all stories.
Seems like that would make the person a distant and unfriendly soul, and that is what happens often. That feeds their story ending pool because it keeps the person safe. They know what to expect and so in their heads, their story has the expected outcome and there is no surprises. Being vulnerable is too overwhelming. To some extent, we all do this and it is very difficult to overcome. We have to learn to draw boundaries and we have to learn to pay attention to our stories.
This has been a huge revelation for me. I jump right in and write these stories in my head about situations and they are always so dramatic and crucial. Many times, I paint myself a victim and in fairness to me, it is based on experience. But since I have been learning about this, I find that I can now stop and say, “Whoa, this is a story I am writing.” Sometimes I find myself grinning at this thought because it means I am aware, which is good.
This is where all this goes. There are few things in the world we really can control. Story telling is one. We can actually change the ending of the story if we want. If we want is the hard part. It requires that you look beyond the experience and expectations we set for things. It means we have to be vulnerable and exposed because there is a lot of comfort in being able to say, “I told you so,” even if we are saying this to ourselves. We like to be right. “See I told you she didn’t like me.” When in truth, SHE never gave me any real indication of not liking me, she just had gas. But before any real interaction could occur, the wall was up, protection was in place and the story ended as expected. But it was not true.
Pam Grout (http://pamgrout.com/ wrote a series of books on setting expectations. In her work, she talks about expecting miracles. I tried doing her experiments and had some interesting outcomes. It is sort of the same principal of writing your story only it is more writing the beginning of our stories. She says that if you expect miracles, write it as a must fill expectation, you will discover miracles. Just like we write the ending, we can also write the beginning. How different would my experience been if I had walked into a room, and instead of narcissistically thinking it’s all about me, I just smiled at everyone and expected to be received. MY energy would have been positive, which would have caused an automatic reaction to my positive personal energy. The beginning of my story could have been expecting a positive outcome. The middle of my story would have included being more open and trusting and therefore easier to work with. Can you figure out the ending?