Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Breaking Free - The Stories We Tell (part 1)

Have you ever done something that you didn't really mean to do? Have you ever reacted negatively and then later thought "Why did I do that?" Have you ever told yourself that "From now on I'm going to..." and then didn't keep the promise to yourself or others? Have you ever reacted to someone only to later find out you didn't have the whole story?

Let's use an example that you may have had or at least seen in the past... You're driving along in traffic, keeping a safe distance between you and the car in front of you, when out of nowhere a car zips up beside you and swerves into the "safe distance" space between you and the car in front of you. This caused you to put on your brakes and re-establish your safe distance.

In that moment, what did you do? Did you cuss, call the person an idiot, or worse? Did you honk your horn? Are you now tailgating the 'idiot' to somehow get back at them? Did your hand fly up into the air with only 4 of your 5 fingers in a fist?

Your Every Day Boogie Man

What just happened? You may say, "That person was driving like a maniac and cut me off!!! Someone could've been killed!" I have a question... did you react to a truly terrifying and threatening event? Is the above statement accurate? In most cases, probably not. You sort of thought they might cut you off as you saw them racing up in your rearview or side mirror so you really had plenty of time to slow down. (In some cases, you may have actually tried to speed up so that they wouldn't cut in, right?) So, why all the drama? I can tell you why. Because in this incident as well as many others throughout your day, you are NOT reacting to reality; you are reacting to a fairy tale. This fairy tale is a story that your mind quickly (within milliseconds) created to make 'sense' of what it just perceived. You told yourself a story - maybe it was about right and wrong or what should or should not happen. Your reaction wasn't based on a near tragic collision; it was based on a fairy tale... a story.

Your reaction to this story is not unlike my reaction to the boogie man when the lights went out in my bedroom as a little girl. My mind would tell me that he was under my bed or in my closet. Sometimes the story that I told myself made me get all the way under my covers so that I could seal him out. You know, because the boogie man, in my mind, wouldn't be able to lift up my blanket, right?

Real Logic

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