The movie in your head
“Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts.” —Salman Rushdie
I stumbled upon this quote the other day and it got me thinking, and going back to my post about “Emotionally Intelligent Relationships”, and the idea of having long and lasting meaningful relationships with your spouse or partner. I think this idea will help you to have a more fulfilled union together. In fact, I know it will.
I believe whole-heartedly, and endorse strongly that thoughts are just thoughts, and can be changed. A negative thought can be transformed into a positive thought, and that consciousness is key. If you are a regular reader of my blog or a student at the Kabbalah Centre, you know this to be true of me, but here was the thought: At any given time, we have our own personal movie playing in our head, each narrative is unique to each person, and each story even has its own genre.
Let’s just break down a couple of notions:
According to Wikipedia, a narrative is a story that is created in a constructive format, either as a work of speech, writing, song, film, television, theatre, video games, or even photography, that describes a sequence of fictional or non-fictional events. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, “to recount”, and is related to the adjective gnarus, “knowing” or “skilled”.
Wikipedia goes on to say that stories are an important aspect of culture. Just think about how much joy one can get out of a night at the cinema, the theatre, curling up to a good book, the ballet… the opera! No matter the medium, even a selection of photographic stills at the LACMA or The Getty, many works of art and most works of literature tell stories. Owen Flanagan of Duke University, a leading consciousness researcher, writes that, “Evidence strongly suggests that humans in all cultures come to cast their own identity in some sort of narrative form. We are inveterate storytellers”.
Inveterate… It means deep-rooted, ingrained in who we are. It is in our nature to tell stories, and to love stories, but sometimes it’s the story in your head (even the one we aren’t really paying attention to), which is making all the decisions for you, and making things challenging between you and your beloved.
I call it the “Fiction in your head” – The false narrative. There are stories in all of our heads. They can be false or they can be real, but either way it affects your interactions and reactions to your spouse, your partner, your friends, and your family. We’ve all heard the terms, “You’re taking things out of context.” Or, “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.” Small things become big deals when they fit into our uniquely crafted narratives.
Let’s say a husband cheats on his wife. They work through it together; they stay together, and really do get past it. She accepts what happened and has forgiven him. They work on their marriage, and things are okay. One evening they attend a friend’s dinner party, and at some point the wife turns around to find her husband having a friendly, polite conversation with another woman. It’s not an important conversation, but what happens? She becomes enraged because the movie in her head is telling her a whole different story: He is speaking to another woman; he’s going to stray, he’s going to cheat again, he is going to leave her… But she is only reacting to the narrative in her HEAD.
Another instance: Let’s say a child grows up in a home, where his mother’s an alcoholic. This is obviously not a great experience for him to have had as a child. Fast-forward a decade or so; he meets a wonderful woman, gets married, and if his wife has the occasional glass of wine – it throws him over the edge. He becomes controlling and demanding because he’s afraid that that one glass of wine will make his wife behave like his mother did when he was growing up. He too is reacting to the story in his head.
I will use this last example to tie in the idea of the emotional intelligent relationships: Lastly, we have a couple and they’re having a fight, the subject is irrelevant because we can fight about anything and everything. Anybody who’s ever lived with a roommate, or is in a relationship, or has a sibling, knows you can find anything to fight about. Some fights take us right back to Kindergarten, and in comes some name-calling, the wife calls her husband an idiot, not unheard of, and then he calls her crazy, and at that very moment she turns red and blue and purple, and explodes with rage.
Not quite the reaction you would think she would have after him calling her crazy. He called her crazy. That’s not unheard of either. However, if they were an emotionally intelligent couple, he would know or remember that her uncle was schizophrenic, and he would recall that her lifelong fear was that she would somehow suffer with the same, if not similar, problem. This is an irrational fear, from childhood, where she believed his schizophrenia was contagious, which we know isn’t true, but that’s her fear and that’s what she believed would happen to her from childhood. Even though she is a very logical and straight-laced woman, this is her big fear. Being called crazy by the one who loves her the most, and knows her the best, made her feel as if her fear was becoming a reality. In that moment she freaked out. If he had had this information, he would know never to call her crazy, and then she would never react this way.
The stories of our lives hold some very important data, and should be shared with the person with whom you choose to spend your life. When you choose to come together with somebody, imagine that it is like remodeling a house. You keep the things that you like, but you incorporate both your unique style and your appreciation for what you have, and you combine them – like an architect’s blueprint. This idea of a blueprint of a home, this is what your relationship should look like. You each come with things that you love, that you enjoy, and you keep that, and you find a way to cohabitate together. This is what a healthy relationship really looks like. It’s important to know yourself and your partner.
- What are your narratives – what’s the story that you tell yourself?
- How does this negatively influence your behavior in relationships?
- And what narratives do you know about the person with whom you’re in the relationship?