Welcome to my first blog post on “Growing Stories.”
Have you ever felt “stuck” in your life, in your work or personal relationships? Maybe you’ve felt lonely or just plain bored. Or perhaps you’ve faced mental illness, depression, or anxiety, in yourself or a loved one. Maybe you struggle with a physical illness. Each of these states or related feelings has an impact on our self stories. Many stories can actually grow from them.
By “story” I mean the life stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. These stories can originate with others or through stories we tell ourselves.
- At best, life stories express how we uniquely structure the information of our lives into meaningful and healthy emotional frames.
- At worst, life stories become self-defeating and leave us stuck, depressed, anxious, and even traumatized.
- Some of the stories we tell ourselves are obvious, others are not.
- Known or unknown, self stories affect our lives in powerful and often insidious ways.
So, what is story and why did it become so important to our emotional well-being? According to Kendall Haven’s 2007 book, Story Proof: the Science Behind the Startling Power of Story, story is a “detailed, character-based narration of a character’s struggles to overcome obstacles and reach an important goal.” It’s easy to see how that definition describes each of our lives.
Story became important to us over the course of a hundred thousand years. We relied on stories to communicate with each other. Through that process, the human brain rewired itself so that it uses story structure to create meaning in our lives.
Returning to life stories, whether told about ourselves or self-created, they are likely to have deeply positive or negative effects on our lives. Life stories often begin to develop early in childhood and continue throughout adulthood. They persist with impressive influence and power.
Too often, and sometimes without question, we accept faulty stories about ourselves told to us by others or we draw faulty conclusions from our own life experiences. If you were labelled “overly sensitive” in a disapproving way as a youngster, you might have believed it. With no convincing argument to correct that impression, you felt bad and judged whenever you had strong feelings. Likely, you hadn’t yet grown into knowing that your sensitivity might actually be a blessing. Or maybe you weren’t oversensitive at all – just labeled that way. These self stories can erode a person’s healthy sense of self and can easily impair self-esteem and self-worth.
Changing my own life stories has been a life-long endeavor. My stories continue to evolve and morph into new and important goals and ways of being in the world. I look forward to further exploring with you this topic of growing stories.