“In one of my favorite studies described in The Storytelling Animal, a team of psychologists asked shoppers to choose a pair of socks among seven pairs and then to give their reasons for choosing that particular pair. Every shopper explained their choice based on subtle differences in color, texture, and stitching. No shopper said, ‘I don’t know why this is my choice,’ or ‘I have no idea why I picked that one.’ All of them had a story that explained their decision. But here’s the kicker: All of the socks were identical. Gottschall explains that all of the shoppers told stories that made their decisions seem rational. But they really weren’t. He writes, ‘The stories were confabulations – lies, honestly told.'”
From the book, Rising Strong
Brown goes on to say, “The most dangerous stories we make up are the narratives that diminish our inherent worthiness.” When something in our lives feels painful to us, instead of feeling the hurt, we tend to jump to meaning-making.
Instead of feeling the pain of losing a client or learning our partner had an affair, we tend to explain these events with one of our core wounds. “See, there it is again. People always end up abandoning me.” Or, “Of course they left, of course they cheated. I’m not good enough.”
Our brains find comfort in patterns and our core wounds are familiar patterns. This is the booby prize.
If we are instead willing to feel our feelings, then we have the opportunity to be present with ourselves. We create a powerful pause that helps us to not automatically choose fear-based, self-protecting stories that end up keeping us scared and shut down.
By being willing to feel our feelings, we give ourselves the opportunity to then choose to look at the story we are creating. This begins the process of ending the pattern of innocently dooming ourselves to repeat the story of our core wounds over and over again.
Instead, we can get curious about “the story I’m making up is . . .” We can explore our emotions, bodies, thoughts, beliefs and actions. As we are willing to examine our stories and reactions, we come to see that there may not be a conspiracy after all.
We become less self-protective and more generous in looking at our assumptions. In the end, we become more wholehearted.
If you haven’t read Rising Strong, I highly recommend it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences . . . post them below in the comments section . . .
(Excerpted from my forthcoming book, “Strong from Within: Simple perceptions and practices for transforming stress and overwhelm into clarity and purpose”)