Updated: Feb 1
The stories we are told as children inform the way we understand the world. Indeed, they are the bedrock of how we meet and learn to inhabit the world.
For instance; gravity can be deadly, but community is a great healer. Especially if you're an oddly-named egg. Or, don't tell lies or no one will believe you, and you will be eaten by a wolf, and so on...(short aside - I will never understand why children's stories are so dramatically intertwined with death?)
The seductive and timeless nature of a story, whilst fascinating, is not the focus of this article. Instead, I wish to draw your attention away from the historic stories we are told, towards the stories we tell in the present. Namely, those we tell ourselves, or try to tell other people about ourselves. Our unique position, as both author and actor in the story of our lives, intrinsically and continuously shapes who we are. Imagine if shouting at the T.V. genuinely impacted the outcome of a certain a penalty shoot out; this would undeniably change how you experienced and viewed the game. Your relationship with T.V. might be changed forever. The same is true of our lived experience, except we seldom notice the impact of a story we are telling, precisely because we are too busy living it ourselves. The power of these tales comes from their origin within us and the barrier they present between you and reality. As the old Confucius quote goes: "The man who says he can, and the man who says he cannot, are both correct". What we believe about ourselves becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, or at very least becomes understood as unchangeable and inevitable. For instance; If I believe myself to be unlovable, I will negotiate the world around me from a position of being unlovable. If I believe myself to be lucky and successful, my interaction with the world will be coloured with this philosophy. A flat tyre, unsuccessful lottery ticket and small raise at work can be woven together to tell a story of resilience and triumph, or become a tapestry of evidence for why someone 'deserves' to be alone. Both versions are subjectively accurate if they are chosen and believed. The positive version may even be attractive in its ability to find gratitude in misfortune. However, neither meets the reality of these circumstances as they truly are. Not to criticize Confucius, but I'd argue the ending clause should have been '...both people are missing the point'. It does not necessarily matter if you can or can't, or what you believe. What truly matters is your aptitude for understanding and living your can-ness or can't-ness, irrespective of being or not being able to do something. Why does being genuine with the reality around us even matter? Let me answer this with the quote that incepted this article. Taken from a BBC drama miniseries 'The Serpent': "Forgive my impertinence...you deserve to be with someone who sees you the way you are Marie-Andree, not the way you see yourself, because you are beautiful" You too, are beautiful. By essence of being alive, you are enough. And, I believe, you too deserve to be with yourself, seeing yourself just the way you are. A narrative is not required because it takes us further away from the thing it is trying to describe and orientate; how we genuinely experience the world. In therapy, as in life, genuineness is one of the key ways of creating a helping relationship. As Carl Rogers, the founder of Person Centred Therapy argued, by being genuine we imbue our relationships with 'reality' in a way that allows other people to live their 'reality'. As I accept the truth of myself, I accept you for who you truthfully are. As I behave in a way that expresses how I authentically feel, I invite and allow you the space to do the same for yourself. Without fiction, novel or prose, we are able to meet each other authentically. In turn, we learn to explore and meet ourselves in a similar way. In a world that is being increasingly fed on fake-news, social media slogans, and the fast food of so called reality T.V., ensuring we have a fast from these and our own internal narratives has become increasingly pivotal. Perhaps then, it is time that take a break from these stories and edge slightly closer towards the less fantastical but more truthful reality of ourselves. After all, did anyone truly believe they could blow down a house of sticks or mistake a wolf for their grandma?