Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Letting Go of the Stories We Tell Ourselves

 Are you a worrier? Have you ever obsessed about something? If so, you know the power of the story. Stories (or pictures) are what our minds create when we take leave of the real world (what's actually happening) and travel off to a fantasy world far, far away. Sometimes these are happy stories, and are harmless or even beneficial, but all too often they take us down a dark road.

There's a reason why Buddhists, 12-step programs, and other wise philosophies ask us to take life a day at a time or a moment at a time. It's because whenever we project ourselves forward into the vast unknown, the hypothetical," what ifs," or the scary world of nightmare scenarios, we can expect to start reeling.

Why? Because the truth is that anything can happen at any time in this crazy world, and a good portion of that is outside of our control. Even the parts we have influence over are subject to a million variables, so we can't even know how we're going to change or grow or feel from one moment to the next, let alone what others are going to do

The problem with our stories and pictures is that they take on a life of their own. All we have to do is accidentally hear two seconds of a news report to start worrying about the fate of our loved ones or ourselves. One minute we're excited about the latte we just ordered, and the next minute we're imagining our children dying in a fiery crash.

And then there are the stories we tell ourselves about our relationships. "He left the seat up on the toilet again. He knows I hate that. He must've done it on purpose. I know he did. What a passive-aggressive jerk! How could I have married someone like that? Maybe it's because my parents didn't love me enough...," or "She hasn't called me back. She must be mad at me. Or maybe she's out drinking with her friends...Ah, that's why she has so much credit card debt. Geez, I wonder if she's an alcoholic....?"

Finding inner stability and learning to keep our focus on the present moment are great ways to avoid being swept away by the wild stories we create. And if you're a worrier, you'll need to realize that worry doesn't prevent bad things from happening, nor does it equal care. Worry is just low-grade, free-floating fear.

So, this week I ask you to notice any moments of upset or anxiety. Chances are you've been painting abstract pictures or telling yourself stories that aren't true. Just for fun, try to stick with the facts: "The toilet seat is up," or, "She hasn't called me back." Period. Whatever you add to that is a stab in the dark, and can lead to suffering.

Good luck with this, and I'll see you here again next week.