I often start my blogs by telling a story, recalling some personal event that has taught me something, and then I pass it along to you. I really love to share my stories. I consider myself a storyteller, it feels good, and I love the connection that the act inspires.
There’s another kind of storytelling though, one that seemingly does the opposite of everything I just described above. Rather than connection, it encourages separation, and it definitely does not make anyone feel good. The kind of storytelling I’m referring to is when we write stories in our minds about someone else’s actions or experiences, as a way to better understand a situation.
I recently experienced a difficult situation with a close friend. We had a disagreement and our communication about the problem was poor, in fact, it was non-existent. I knew my side of the story, but I didn’t know my friend’s. I couldn’t figure out why this person who I considered to be a close confidant, was acting this way.
Out of frustration and desperation, I started to write my own stories. Were we fighting because of stress? Because of something I had done? Or something completely different? Did it have anything to do with me at all?
I wracked my mind and created stories to answer every question that I had. I was addicted to coming up with the “why,” and I allowed myself to spiral into an endless abyss of questions, and making up my own answers, simply to satisfy my own mind and to hopefully, cope with what was happening. I felt that if I could come up with a good enough story, I would solve the puzzle, and feel better about the situation.
I didn’t feel better, though. And I didn’t cultivate the grand solution to the problem. The “why” never came, and I was exhausted because of it all. It finally hit me that I have held this underlying habit of telling stories in this way for a long, long time. Can you relate?
Storytelling in this way doesn’t have to be as intense as a blowup with a good friend, it can be as simple as making an assumption about a stranger in the grocery store, or judging someone by their appearance or social stature, or making excuses for why people do certain things. These are all stories that we subconsciously write in our minds every day, and guess what? They’re not true, and they’re not productive.
No matter how smart or intuitive we are, the truth of the matter is, we will never fully know or understand what it’s like to be someone else. We can’t know what is going through someone else’s mind or the life circumstances they’ve lived through that influence the way they behave. It’s just impossible to know what makes people the way that they are. And it’s not our job, or our business to try.
The truth is, writing stories about other people is a waste of our own time and energy. And it takes away from our own abilities to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions.
In the situation with my friend from above, rather than writing stories, I could have asked more questions. Or, I could have let the situation go, and allowed it space for resolution instead. The endless toiling never gave me any more clarity or closure, and it made me feel like a victim to what was unknown.
The way we can take our power back is to fully understand how we want to show up and present ourselves in any situation or circumstance, and release the need to know the “why’s” for anyone else. We can find comfort in remembering and knowing what is true, and releasing the need to know more.
We can start to ask questions when appropriate, and come to accept that sometimes we can’t know it all. We can remember that we cannot ever control other people and the outcomes to life’s circumstances, but we can control our responses and reactions to them. And we can find peace in knowing that sometimes, that is enough.
Michelle is Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life's Creative Director and resident writer. She has a degree in Journalism from Indiana University and is also a certified holistic health coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and registered yoga teacher with trainings with Anuttara Yoga Shala and Strala Yoga. Michelle has a deep desire to help people find happiness in all areas of their lives, and truly believes the Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life movement will bring lasting change to the world. Michelle splits her time between Florida and New York City and loves connecting with people from all over the world. If you'd like to contact her, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org