I have a collection of favorite stories about myself. I bet you do too. There’s the time I went skinny-dipping in the town pool; that awful day in junior high when an undergarment fell off as I walked down the school hallway; how I talked my way into an exclusive private event at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. As I tell these stories I relive good memories, connect with people, and sometimes gain the ultimate compliment—a laugh.
Most of us have other stories too. How she lied, he did me wrong, they hurt me, I was cheated. Sometimes the bad stories get more air time. People often respond more to tragedy than good news. Perhaps that stems from compassion or sympathy? I hope it’s not schadenfreude—that great German word meaning satisfaction at someone’s misfortune. The Bible tells us to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. I’ve found some people are more likely to weep with me than rejoice with me! Regardless, the stories we tell ourselves have power.
- Ranting feels good…at first. When things go wrong it feels so good to pick up the phone and vent.
“You won’t believe what happened.”
“It was horrible.”
“They’ve done it again!”
I used to think it was healthy to express my feelings and get things off my chest. Now I’m not so sure, because…
- Repeating stories embeds them in our minds. The more I talk about frustration, the more frustrated I feel. Scientists say repetition hardwires pathways in our brains. Anxiety, panic attacks, explosions of anger occur when events trigger a familiar response. Reactions to deep-seated injuries or traumas are beyond my knowledge and the scope of this article. Yet I believe repeating even minor stories of victimization, anger, and frustration primes my brain to experience more of the same. That’s why it makes a difference to…
- Rewrite the story. If meditation influences activity in areas of the brain associated with anxiety, fear, anger, and depression, might it matter if I meditate on blessings and the good things in my life, instead of the problems? I think so. Rewriting the story means I make an intentional choice about my thoughts. After a disappointment, I can say “It’s pointless anyway, those jerks will never give me a chance.” Or I say “I learned something important. Now I’m one step closer to success.” It also helps to…
- Refocus on gratitude. Even in bad times, there is something for which to be grateful. During a sad time in my life, I had a job that required me to go to nursing homes every day. Many days I felt quite depressed and had to force myself to get out of bed and get dressed.
When I went into the first nursing home I’d look around and say, “My life’s not so bad. I’m free to live where I want. I can drive myself anywhere I want. I can run and walk and play tennis and feed myself.” That simple act of rewriting my story, with a focus on gratitude, changed everything.
My next book video is from the marvelous Praying for Strangers by my friend River Jordan. During a perilous year when both her sons deployed into war zones, River rewrote her story to focus on others. She prayed for a stranger every day and wrote a bestselling book about what happened.
How about you?
This week, will you pick one story to re-write?
Write down the new version. Repeat it every day.
Make a comment below, and let me know how this works for you.
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