Throughout our lives, we carry innumerable stories with us.
When we were young we carried stories of who we thought we were, what our pasts were, and what we desired our futures to look like. When we grew older, we continued to carry many stories with us, stories that dictated what we thought about ourselves, how we viewed others, and how we perceived life in general.
In my case, the most common story I carried around with me for most of my life was: “My family is extremely religious. Their extremist beliefs limited my ability to make friends, try new things and blossom into my true self. I was traumatized by their narrow, hateful way of seeing other people and I developed low self-esteem because of my inability to connect with them, and with others. Now I have vulnerability and general anxiety issues.”
We all carry around some kind of tragic or wretched story with us. These stories – whether created about the past, the present, or the future – quagmire us in resentment, self-pity, prejudice and anxiety.
The stories we carry around with us are often unconscious, and are deeply ingrained into our psyche’s through years of habitual repetition. In other words: we make a habit of repeating stories to ourselves all throughout our lives.
But the truth is that most of the stories we carry around with us weigh down on us heavily; they completely limit our ability to experience a life of peace, gratitude and joy. In this article we’ll explore how to identify any stories you may be lugging about and how to rewrite them as an act of self-liberation.
How to Identify the Stories You Drag Around
How do you know whether you are dragging around a poisonous story in your everyday life? Usually toxic stories manifest themselves as feelings; feelings of heaviness, feelings of sadness, feelings of regret, feelings of resentment, and feelings of unease.
Take some time now to settle into your body. Breathe slowly and calmly. How do you feel? Do you feel clean, placid and vibrant? Or are you feeling sluggish, tense, and weighed down?
Our stories are like leeches or parasites: they suck the vital energy needed to heal, to feel joyful and at peace in our lives. Our stories, in essence, pollute the landscapes of our existences.
But they don’t have to. When we consciously choose to explore what tales we are unconsciously dragging around with us, we open the door to change, recovery and freedom.
In order to begin the process of exploration, you must see that there are three different types of stories that can be told about the past, the present or the future, these include:
- Stories about ourselves.
- Stories about other people.
- Stories about the world/life in general.
Let’s explore a few examples to better help you identify your own limiting stories.
Stories about ourselves can sound like the following: “I was bullied as a child and I’ll probably be bullied for the rest of my life.” “I suffer from depression and OCD. Because of that I’ll always be alone and never feel happy with my life.” “I’ve always been ugly and no matter how many times I date no one ever sticks around. I’ve got to make myself look better so that other people like me more.” “I’ve always felt shy in the past, so I’ll continue to feel shy for the rest of my life.” “I’ve never made the right choices in my life … I’ll always be a screw up. There is no hope for me.”
Stories about others can sound like the following: “My parents were drug addicts and never showed me the love I needed. They screwed up my life.” “My brother abused me, so I’ll always be a broken and unhappy person.” “Every time I try to make friends with other people it never works out. There is no one like me in the world.” “My sister’s best friend is a slut. She’s slept with over twenty different guys. She’ll try to seduce my boyfriend eventually.”
Stories about life can sound like: “Life is a battlefield. In order for me, or for anyone else to feel happy, it’s necessary to fight for what you want even at the expense of others.” “The world is against me. Most things in my life haven’t gone according to plan, so I must have been born with bad luck.” “When I couldn’t predict what was going to happen at the meeting, I felt and looked like an idiot. Everything must be predictable and able to be controlled for me to feel happy and a sense of relief.” “I wanted to have children after I established a successful career, but now my life has been completely messed up.”
These are only some of the endless stories that exist in our lives.
Now it’s your turn. What toxic stories do you have about yourself, other people and/or life in general? How are these stories contributing to your well-being and peace of mind? How are they limiting you?
Rewriting the Toxic Stories of Life
One of the most powerful ways of liberating ourselves from suffering in life is by rewriting our toxic life stories.
What does this mean?
Basically: life is a perception. There are no “right” or “wrong” ways of seeing the world; however, there are wise and unwise, intelligent and unintelligent, and beneficial and unbeneficial ways of perceiving the world.
For a long time I carried a lot of bitterness and sadness inside. The story I mentioned at the beginning of this article was literally leeching my health and my happiness every day because it formed a backdrop to my entire existence. I considered myself a “victim” and an “outcast” of a family who couldn’t understand my desire to explore, discover and come into my own person. Eventually I discovered how destructive this story playing like a broken record in my mind was … and I decided to rewrite my story.
My story now sounded like this: “My family is extremely religious. Their beliefs introduced me to the concept of God from an early age and motivated me to explore other types of religions and spiritual practices as I got older. Their intense devotion rubbed off on me and allowed me to intensely devote myself to a life of self-discovery and transformation. Thanks to my upbringing, I have grown into the person I am today.”
How about you? What does your rewritten story sound like?
Our experiences in life are truly what we make of them. Our perceptions can liberate us or enslave us.
Once I rewrote my story … suddenly an immense burden was lifted from me. Finally I could feel cleaner, clearer and more satisfied with life. Finally I could make peace with my family, my past and my upbringing. Finally I could feel gratitude, forgiveness and love again.
When rewriting your story, focus on how you benefited from the experience/s you had. Focus on the gifts, the opportunities, the doorways, and the advantages that you received. If you carry a toxic story about your divorced parents who divided your household, for example, you might choose to rewrite your story in the following way:
“As a child my parents got divorced when I turned 12. I would live with my mother for half of the year and my father for the other half which allowed me to travel, see and meet more people. I learnt to become self-reliant and independent, as well as open-minded towards my parent’s new partners and stepchildren.”
There might be many benefits and gifts you received, or only a few that you gained from your experiences in life. No matter how much or how little you received, focus on identifying any hidden treasures you can find.
Give it a try.
Our stories can free us or encage us, portray us as hopeless victims, or hopeful champions, feed us misery or feed us thankfulness.
It is not necessary for us to wait to be saved, redeemed or emancipated by other people in order to better our lives. No, instead we are more than able to liberate ourselves, and learning how to identify and rewrite our toxic life stories is one of the most powerful ways to do this.
Don’t wait … go for it!