Once upon a time…
Over the summer I decided that I was going to stop making up stories once and for all, and find a new outlet for my creativity. I was going to concentrate on the facts, and not why I think something happened, or why someone was rude to me. Instead, I would just ask the necessary questions, “Why did you say that?” or “I am confused by something that happened, maybe you can clarify it.” It’s a simple approach to life, but as with most things it has a challenging execution.
Some of us have the tendency to keep rereading the same chapter of our lives over and over again, dwelling on the past, and never allowing ourselves to move forward to see what comes next, because we get completely wrapped up in our stories. We create fiction instead of relating back to the facts; for instance, FACT – “my partner is being distant” versus STORY – “my marriage is over”.
We all learn to navigate life in different ways, and while we’re all biased, there are some of us who construct elaborate fantasies out of our lives. The lady who cut you off in traffic (troll!) The parking attendant who always gives you the worst spot (ogre!) The boss who gives you too much work (one-eyed monster!) To some extent we’re all guilty of storytelling, but it becomes dangerous, because it’s easy to cast ourselves as the victim in the story. Rarely do we see ourselves as the heroine, but why is that? And do we really want to be cast as the victim? The heroine is so much sexier.
There is an interesting theory to support this victim-consciousness-dilemma, it is called affect heuristic. Very simply, affect heuristic is a mental shortcut we make, which allows us to make a quick decision based on an emotional response we have to something. For instance, if I use the phrase “motherly love” it evokes a feeling of comfort, and security (unless your mother was like Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest). Where as, if I say “animal abuse” it conjures up a feeling of dread, anger and sadness. We already have built in responses, be it positive or negative feelings, which we associate with a stimulus. And ultimately, this affects the way we make decisions.
I am a big believer that we control our thoughts, and therefore are very much in control of the choices we make, and the stories we tell ourselves (or rather those we should stop telling ourselves). We all wish to have more control over our lives, finding the perfect house… control over getting granted that mortgage, or getting that dream job. But in truth, the end-result is not up to us. In fact, neither is the beginning, or the middle.
We do not have control over our inception, when we are conceived or when we are born, and we don’t have control over when we die (or taxes!) This is a fundamental understanding we all are aware of. But in life, we have just as much control over the middle as we do in the beginning or the end. I think this is why we create our stories, for the most part. It gives us the sense that we have control all the way through. Life works differently, though.
Wait, wait, wait. It’s not all bad news. This is a good thing.
I’ll share the simple analogy my husband shared a few weeks ago, which will help make sense of this.
When you work the field as a farmer, assuming you have a relatively large piece of land, all the work you do across the entire field is consistent. You cultivate the field equally, sow your seeds and water them. Tending to each inch of land – doing the necessary work – day in, day out. And yet for some reason there’s a certain crop that starts sprouting first. Why is that, if you planted the whole field equally, and worked consistently throughout the land?
It’s a simple analogy used to relate to a profound understanding; in life, as in farming, there is a lot we do not see and do not know. There are no coincidences. In order for this first crop to grow there was something in the terrain – a boost of energy in that specific part of the land and that individual crop that had some unique Light of the Creator, which enabled and pushed it to grow first.
In life, we are meant to invest as much as we can in the work we do – spiritually and otherwise, to create change and to reach our utmost potential in all things – that is why we are in this world. We are in control of how much we are willing and able to do. Creation comes from our actions, but the manifestation comes from the Light.
For thousands of years, kabbalists have been aware of how little control we have over what we think we create. It is taught that if you want come to a real consciousness about the existence of the Light of the Creator, and the power of the Light of the Creator, all we have to do is look at the beginning of things, of everything.
Why do we tell ourselves stories? Because sometimes it’s easier to live in a fairytale, because we don’t trust the process, and we lack certainty in the outcome. The danger of deception is that we actually start to believe and live our story, because we don’t realize how powerful our stories are. Rav Berg once said that if you say something over and over again enough times people begin to believe it. He was referencing Hitler’s rise to power and his distorted belief in a “pure” gene pool – a story which had terrible consequences.
Stories keep us from fixing the things in our lives that really need our attention. They’re a scapegoat. ‘My boss is a monster’ is an easier excuse than actually having a constructive discussion that would address our needs and issues. Saying your marriage is over instead of paying attention to why your partner is distant, is perhaps a less painful alternative to learning what the actual problem is, and easier than actually having to do the work of fixing it. These stories give us the illusion of control.
For some it’s not just stories, but a fantasy world with demons and trolls lurking under bridges, but we can bear in mind and understand that this story world is make-believe, and can really help us learn something truly valuable, and reach a new level of understanding altogether. We have no control of the beginning, and the end, how silly are we to think that we actually control the middle? Can any of us create a child? No. It’s the Light of the Creator that enables that process to occur. Can any of us control which of our children will become the stellar, star pupil? No.
The middle is for us to do the work. We have to invest as much time and effort in the middle with the knowledge that we don’t control it. That is up to a greater power. All we need to do is trust the process, and when you are able to have this consciousness in the beginning, we are able to draw endless blessings to whatever it is we are creating. When we realize how little control we have over what we think we create, and that everything we receive is from the Creator, that there is something so much bigger at work, it allows us breathe, and surrender to the process. If we could maintain this consciousness, 99.9% of our worries, of our anger, of our disappointments, and our fears wouldn’t exist, because we would know that we’re in good hands.
THOUGHT TO ACTION:
Are you telling yourself stories? Are you exaggerating details? Do you have an ulterior motive for seeing things this way? Are you making assumptions about someone else’s behavior? Or other events?
Stick to the facts. Ask the necessary people the questions you need the answers to, and share your experience in the comment section.
This is a passage from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat. Pray. Love. Use it as a mantra to help keep your stories straight.
There is so much about my fate that I cannot control, but other things do fall under the jurisdiction. I can decide how I spend my time, whom I interact with, whom I share my body and life and money and energy with. I can select what I can read and eat and study. I can choose how I’m going to regard unfortunate circumstances in my life-whether I will see them as curses or opportunities. I can choose my words and the tone of voice in which I speak to others. And most of all, I can choose my thoughts.