What Stories Do You Create?
Let’s face reality: We make stuff up. All the time. Or as my daughter would type (she’s just learning how) All. the. time. Not sure why she likes the extra spaces and all the periods but the effect is nice. Back to making stuff up. A basic search online will reveal that the average person thinks about 50,000 thoughts per day. Other research puts that number at around 70,000. That’s a lot of thoughts!
I don’t know about you but I tend to create stories with those thoughts. And I’m not talking about the kind of stories that lead to epic novels or amazing screen plays. I’m talking about the ones where a person you know (your kid, spouse, co-worker, etc.) does something and you create this story around it. Perhaps what they are doing is pissing you off or not aligning with what you think they should be doing. Guess what? What you think they should be doing is not at all what they should be doing. What they should be doing is what they are doing. Not what you think they need to be doing.
I will be honest and say that I don’t do this with many people, except those closest to me. My spouse, siblings, parents, children, best friends. The people that I love most. Why? Why the hell do I subject those precious human beings to my bullshit, made-up stories? Probably because I know they love me most and they’ll forgive my bullshit. But that doesn’t excuse it. That doesn’t mean that I can continue being unaware of it and doing it on the daily. My job is to notice when I do this and challenge it. Instead, I can ask clarifying questions to get to the truth of why someone is doing something — if I’m inclined to be nosy. Or I can simply accept what they are doing and focus on what I’m doing. Or I can stop being a baby and ask them what it is that I want them to do. It sounds simple but sometimes it’s not. Especially when the thoughts take over and then the stories form.
I often act upon those stories, again, with those people I love most, and this is where I get myself in trouble. However, knowing that I am prone to do this makes it a bit easier to catch myself in the act. Here are examples (these actually happened):
Situation: My husband went to go get the truck cleaned because we were traveling the next day. Next morning, I go to load stuff into the truck and it’s filthy inside. Furiously, I get a baggie and clean it out, all the while wondering what he actually did last night. I stormed inside and was throwing my negative attitude all the way around the house. Luckily, he was in the shower so I couldn’t confront him. Because he takes long showers (another blessing in disguise), I was able to cool my head. But not before I formed stories such as “Who did he go see last night?” “Is he seeing someone else?” When he got out of the shower, I said nothing and just went about packing up to leave and he mentioned that when he went to go get the truck cleaned, the vacuum machine was broke so he couldn’t clean out the inside but the outside looks good, right? Damn. I didn’t even notice the outside of the truck! It was beautifully clean because that is what he was doing. I couldn’t believe the story I actually went to was that he was seeing someone. Seriously, it was ridiculous. He’s the most trustworthy person I know (why I married him). Why did I go there?
I have many like this with my husband but I’ll spare him another story since he has to put up with me.
Situation: You’ve made plans with a friend and on the day of s/he cancels. She says she doesn’t feel well or has a migraine or whatever. You smile and say (or text), “Totally understand. I hope you feel better soon!” And in your mind, you think additional thoughts as well. You do, of course, hope she feels better. Yet, your mind goes here: “This is the third time she has bailed on me? What did I do wrong? Did that thing I said last time I saw her offend her and now she’s mad at me and doesn’t want to hang out with me?” And on and on and on….Instead of creating this made-up story about what you did or didn’t do, bring your focus back to your friend and how she is feeling. Ask what you can do to help. Does she need some soup or supplies? Just someone to sit with? Does she want to be left the F alone? All of this is okay and has nothing to do with you. Have empathy and just be there for your friend, no strings or stories attached. Try to catch yourself in the act and shift your focus!
Obviously, there are numerous examples of these and I’m sure you have your own. What actions could you take to notice these thoughts that don’t serve you and shift the focus? I’d love to hear any tips you have as this is a work in progress for me. Thanks for reading, lovely!