A few ideas from a few spots came together for me recently, so I want to share the epiphany with you. But first…
Join me on a quick imagination journey.
It’s 2:30am. You’re lying in bed awake. It’s dark enough. It’s cool enough. You’re tired enough. But you just can’t go back to sleep. Why not? What’s the reason that comes to mind for you?
Chances are good that you’re stuck in mental high gear and can’t get your brain to turn off.
You remembered an interaction that went poorly with a colleague, a dropped ball at home, a thoughtless criticism directed at one of your kids.
Or, you’re anticipating the fallout from one of the above. “What will it be like next time I talk to Bob after how I let the team down this week?” “There’s no way that Sally will want to talk to me again after I…” you get the idea.
What are you doing when that track starts playing over and over again in your mind? You’re rehearsing your story. We all construct a story about the world we live in. I think that’s because the world of meaning is at least as important as the observable world to everyone. What something means is more important than what it “objectively” is to us.
So, when someone gives us a weird vibe or bad body language during a conversation, we start to assign meaning to the experience. He thinks I’m an idiot. She doesn’t like me. It’s unavoidable. But if we allow the initial story to be THE story, we’re in for a long ride.
We start to rehearse it everywhere. We gossip, or vent, about it and that rehearses the story. We ruminate on it in the middle of the night and that rehearses the story. We go over the conversation again and again in the car, in the shower, while we mow the lawn. As we rehearse, we make the story stronger, add more compelling details, and reinforce that the story is “THE TRUTH” to us.
The story is rarely the truth. It might be one version of the truth, but it’s not THE TRUTH. So how can we get out of the loop?
Rewrite the story.
Ask questions about the story. Is it true? Would it still be true if different characters were involved? Could the opposite of the story be true?
Be honest about the story. Are you creating your own boogeyman where he/she/it doesn’t exist? Have you spoken to the offending/offended party to get clear on the story? Is it possible that the other party hasn’t even thought about the interaction again since it happened and you’ve been rehearsing it? Are you building up resentment and bitterness about the story?
Detach from the story. Have you written it down and read it? Is it still true once it’s on paper and less tied up in your emotions? Have you asked an uninvolved third party to walk you through how you’re interpreting the story?
How else can you move from rehearsing the stories that keep you awake at night to rewriting them and getting clarity and freedom? Let us know!