Do you get bogged down in the details of your story? In the telling and retelling? We do! In life, we feel an emotion, such as anger or fear, with the shock and force of a paper cut, and we are off on a trail of actions/events that almost always lead back to a major Trauma with a capital “T.”
We get so lost in the details of the long trail that we cannot perceive (1) what the trigger was, (2) what the actual underlying emotions (and body sensations) are, and (3) what is alive in us now.
Telling someone that the details of their story are getting in the way is a quick recipe for anger, outrage, distress. Our therapist did this when we were in a particular panic. Therapist cut us off and noted that we tell so much story that there is often not enough time in the session for solutions. And, Therapist added, our stories are relatively similar so that the pattern is quickly discernible and, therefore pretty easy for Therapist to troubleshoot with us.
All we heard was, “Shut up! You talk too much. Always. This is so easy. If you’d just shut the fuck up and let me fix you.”
We think this was the only time walked out of a session in anger.
This occurred a few years ago, and it is a useful example of how we cling to the details of our stories.
Therapist acknowledged that we should have been allowed to finish our story and feel validated. Later, Therapist could have addressed the potential for us to find healing not in the details and retellings of our stories–which actually serve to get us lost in a labyrinth and away from 1, 2, and 3–but in focusing on (1) what the trigger was, (2) what the actual underlying emotions (and body sensations) are, and (3) what is alive in us now.
These three items are not pulled from any book, nor are they intended as some healing process. The actual point is that our fixation on the details and retellings of our own stories is getting in the way of *everything* related to healing.
This is hard medicine. It has taken years for us to agree with this notion. We first read about it in the Introduction to _Nonviolent Communication_ (2015), in which Deepak Chopra wrote, “The only way to resolve all violence is to give up your story.”
Did you ever read something that stuck with you that you could not decipher? This was our brain-tickler: “The only way to resolve all violence is to give up your story.” Give up your story. Give up your story. Why is our experience a story?
Now, we see. It is these details–you did this and then we did this and then you did this and then we did this–that are accusations, moralistic judgments, demands, criticisms.
What’s wrong with those? They are barriers to healing! Nonstarters. That does not make them wrong to have and feel. It is what we do with them.
In theory, we are ready to attempt to give up our stories.
What does this look like? It is about not getting lost in content, about not translating our experience into stories, tales. It is about recognizing (1) what the trigger was, (2) what the actual underlying emotions (and body sensations) are, and (3) what is alive in us now.
Sometimes the past is alive in us now. That is now; it is not a story. It is something alive in us now, as opposed to content, details, the rightness and wrongness, that get in the way of now.
This is not an easy difference for us to perceive. Can you perceive it? Does it sound threatening? It did to us, except for the kernel of truth we felt when we first read those words, “The only way to resolve all violence is to give up your story.”
When we cling to our story–the revised versions we tell ourselves and others over and over and over–we can seethe with the injustice of the perpetrators, experience the depthless shame of our inherent flaws, and all the other very dramatic language we use to support our stories.
Our story is not the same as our Truth, at least the way Deepak Chopra intends it. The story is the attack, recrimination, cry for “an eye for an eye.” Violence.
“The only way to resolve all violence is to give up your story.”
What is alive in us now?
Just honestly considering that question elevates us from the quagmire of violence (shame, accusations, wrongness, punishment). We break free of the tarry soup of stories and rise to see ourself as we are now.
This is the path to liberation, to peace, to healing, to compassion, to loving-kindness!
The next time we post something that is all about content (they did this and then we did this which made them do this which then made us do this), we invite you to ask us, “What is alive in you now?”
What a shock of a question for a faltering heart. What a breath of clean, nourishing air after holding our breath!
What is alive in us right now is the hope of giving up the violence of our stories, the fog of our details, the nicotine of our victimhood. It is a short walk out of our door-less, bar-less prison. That prison is but letters and spaces and punctuation, fonts of all styles, from the telling and retelling and retelling. We can brush them aside with our exhales, so light are they.