The power of storytelling

Storytelling is a powerful thing.

Not everything gets written down or photographed but stories can always be passed down as long as someone is happy to speak and someone is willing to listen.

For many storytelling perhaps conjures up images of childhood sitting cross legged on the floor as the teacher reads you story or your parents making up a bedtime story where you’re the main character and you save the day.

But there is so much power in the stories we tell about life. It’s how people passed on information, it’s a way of bringing people together and when you tell stories of the past it helps people imagine the way things once her.

My grandparents tell me stories of their lives and my parents too and it’s fascinating. Hearing the stories of people you know is probably the most realistic glimpse into the past you can possibly get.

My focus here is on non-fiction, things that actually happened because that’s the stuff worth remembering.

Missed opportunities

When you take the time to look back on your life, do you think there is anything you missed out on?

The job you turned down, the work you were too afraid to put yourself forward for, the project you never launched…

There are so many things that we all could have done with our lives. And often we get caught up in the fantasy that our lives would be better if only I took that job.

But the truth is you don’t really know how things would have turned out. You might have taken that job and been miserable. But maybe you’d have ended up roughly exactly where you are right now.

When you’re not happy with where you’re at it’s easy to tell yourself a story about how your life could have been something spectacular.

In reality it’s probably much more helpful just to think about what you can do right now based on your current circumstances and then do it.

She carries it with her wherever she goes

If you’re wondering what she carries with her, the answer is fear.

It’s in her voice, the way she talks. You’ll hear the words not quite flow because she’s second guessing herself, so worried about not saying the wrong thing that she can never say the right thing.

It’s in the way she walks, with her head down and no eye contact. She sort of stomps along as if to make her presence known but all she wants to do is hide.

And if you watch her you’ll see it in the way she picks at her fingers, fidgets in her seat and constantly observes her surroundings as though there is something to fear.

But there is something to fear, at least there is in her world.

There’s mistakes, embarrassment and comparison.

And it’s in the way she moves. She’s so tense and rigid that it feels uncomfortable to relax her muscles.

She is so full of fear and she carries it with her wherever she goes.

If she could only let it go it would change her life and she knows it but she doesn’t know how.

Even when she can’t feel it, it’s still there lingering.

But most people have no idea and so they just think she’s a little odd but she’s just trying to be normal.

Fictional risk

There’s a story many of us tell ourselves about what is risky. Often there is no real risk attached to the situation but the story comes from the part of the brain in charge of survival.

It’s like the siren goes off signalling a potential threat but it’s not much use when it happens in a situation like voicing your opinion in a group because you’re not going to die from saying what you think.

Being aware when the *survival brain* is signalling fictional risk gives you the opportunity to overcome situations where you feel anxious.

You might not believe it if you’re caught in feelings of anxiousness or you take your inner monologue as gospel but there are studies on it and for the least I can say it’s worked for me.

A little exercise that’ll be beneficial is to note down something that makes you anxious, the worst case outcome and how you can overcome that.

You might find that many of the worst case outcomes are you feeling bad and all you really have to do to overcome that is remind yourself that it’s okay and maybe try EFT to neutralise feelings of overwhelm.

Unexpected ideal circumstances

It’s much easier to tell yourself a story about the worst case scenario.

‘Of course this won’t work out…’

But even in those cases we often have this picture in our mind of how we want things to really turn out. We’re just too scared to believe in the possibility of something good happening for us.

As life would have it, sometimes good things do happen. It’s not as rare as our minds will have us believe.

 

 

Back to the good stuff

I’d like to be writing something more inspiring, uplifting or thought prompting. But instead here I am writing tales of things that greatly frustrate me, of situations that turned out not quite as I’d have planned. But that’s the things with words, sometimes its necessary to just let them pour out instead of trying to write in a particular kind of way.

And I guess this is my way of saying that I have a lot on my mind and even though I’m not writing all about it explicitly it’s been prevalent in many of the pieces I’ve written over the past few days.

As much as I want to get back to the good stuff, I don’t want to ignore what’s on my mind at the moment. I’m hoping that once I’m through with where I’m at right now there will be more to come that you’ll probably be much more interested in so bear with me, please.

Telling stories and being heard

Growing up I had quite a few occasions where when I would try to speak up about something it was either dismissed or I could clearly tell that the other person wasn’t listening. Through that I learnt to talk less and be more closed off.

Recently, I realised that I had carried this childhood experience into my adult life. That belief became part of my subconsciousness. I would go around with this story that people weren’t listening, it became a sort of self fulfilling prophecy because I had stopped giving people the chance.

But on the flip-side, it meant that when I did open up it came with too much meaning because it was such a rare thing. I can honestly say that that factor has put a lot of pressure on relationships I’ve had.

So now, moving forward with this gift of self awareness, I’m making a conscious effort to be more open. I’m working towards being less anxious and not writing things off before I’ve even given them a go.

I’ve met so many people who I, suppose I judged initially and didn’t open up to but I’ve later come to find that those same people are the ones I actually have a lot in common with.

For me though, it’s not just about giving other people the chance. It’s about giving myself a chance to step outside of old habits, patterns and stories that I tell myself.

Seth Godin once said something like ‘if the story you’re telling yourself isn’t working tell a new one’, i think that’s some pretty useful advice.