You know that one person in your life…the one who knows just what buttons to push to get a rise out of you?
Usually, this person is someone we love. Someone we trust. We give this person all this power over us, our moods, our days. It’s a choice based on the stories we tell ourselves.
We keep tripping over the same issues, and after we fall, we find it hard to get back up again.
Here’s how you can change your story.
1. Notice what’s happening for you and jot it all down:
Your body offers the first clue you are having an emotional reaction. You don’t need to know exactly where the feelings are coming from; you only have to acknowledge them.
My stomach is in knots.
My face feels hot.
I want to punch a wall.
I need ice-cream and Oreos. Lots of them.
Name them out loud! When you say the emotion you take away some of the intensity of it. It’s like letting a little bit of air out of a balloon that’s about to burst. Go ahead, say, “I’m so dang angry!”
What we think becomes our reality. If you think the worst, the worst will happen. Do you think of yourself as a victim? Do you think it’s someone else’s fault?
I believe I’m not good enough, so no one else does. I believe I have to win. I believe the world is against me. I believe I should have what I want.
I argue until I get what I want. I stop talking to this person. I roll my eyes. I say “I’m sorry”, but repeat the same behavior.
The sum of all these things we notice is the story we are telling ourselves. We can see a story driven by emotion and self-protection. It probably doesn’t involve accuracy, logic or civility. If our story contains those things, it’s likely that we’re not being completely honest.
2. Get Curious About What You Just Noticed
Ask yourself a few questions. Don’t pressure yourself to answer them immediately.
Why am I being so hard on everyone?
What happened right before this ice-cream craving set in?
Why am I obsessing over what my sister said?
I’m not saying this is easy. This step can be tough. It’s easy to default to our old behavior and steamroll over our emotions with assumptions that become a story that leaves us stuck.
When we push through the discomfort, we get to the truth. Yes, the truth of, we’re more hurt than we realized is uncomfortable. The truth that our attitude played a part, is well, OUCH!
It’s ok. It stings for a second. We are now able to begin writing our new story.
3. Write your new story
What are the facts, and what are my assumptions?
I really don’t know why my sister didn’t call me. And I never even asked her. I figured she was just mad at me and ignoring me.
What do I need to know about the others involved?
Maybe my sister had an emergency? Maybe her boss called her in for an impromptu meeting. Maybe her kid got sick.
What am I really feeling? What part did I play?
I feel so alone. I feel out of touch. I feel so worthless.
The truths we reveal are uncomfortable. But they are the basis of meaningful change. Figuring out your own story could take 15 minutes or 15 years. It may not be one big transformation. Be open to a series of incremental changes.
I get it. This is hard. We confront our fear, aggression, shame, and blame. It takes courage to face our stories. Owning our stories is the only way we get to write a brave new existence.