The Practice of Being Present
The Stories We Tell
As human beings, we are constantly in the process of making stories. We construct our ideas about ourselves and our ideas about reality through the stories we create. Some of these stories we are conscious of: stories we tell to other people about ourselves, about our lives, about our day, situations that have happened to us; stories about what we think and why we think it, what we feel and why we feel it. The "why" part of it is about creating meaning out of our experience.
Every aspect of what we think of as "reality", of what we think of as our lives, our relationships, our personalities is comprised of stories. On the one hand, this is normal and natural – it is naturally what we do. On the other hand, it is useful to be aware that every time we tell a story, every time we shape our perceptions, our thoughts, our feelings and our reactions into a story, we are taking a step away from the actual and total reality of what we are talking about, and we are limiting our understanding of it, reducing it to what we have decided on as a story.
The stories that we formulate, that we tell ourselves and others, remove us from the present moment, and it is in the present moment that reality is happening. Everything that results in our feeling stress, anxiety, anger, resentment, jealousy, or any other negative feeling you can imagine, is the product of a meaning we are putting to a situation, and of a story we are creating about it. At a very fundamental level, other than a situation that is actually occurring right now, in which I am being physically hurt or maimed, or my life is in danger, most of the ways that I might feel some degree of suffering or distress is the result of stories. This is in fact recognized in many different psychological approaches: in Cognitive Psychology and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, in Depth Psychology and Psychodynamic psychotherapy, in Narrative Therapy - and even in Energy Psychology.
When you realize that your experience of reality is meaning that you actively construct, and that most of the ways you might suffer or struggle are related to narratives, to stories that you have constructed, you realize that you have a great deal of power to change your experience of life, and of living your life. This isn't always obvious or easy: the stories we tell ourselves are often deeply felt to be true, or deeply rooted in old patterns of perception, old beliefs and previous experiences, and even in very early life experience. So it isn't always easy to step back and identify them as stories we have constructed. It isn't always easy to realize that what we deeply believe to be true, is just that: a belief. And it certainly isn't easy to see and to believe that these patterns can be changed. But they can be changed. And understanding that the stories we tell ourselves aren't working for us is the first step to changing them.