16 Jun Letting Go of Our Old Stories
I often find inspiration in the writings of others, particularly when the writer manages to capture the essence of something that resonates with me. Jonathan Fields is one of those people who comes at his topics in an unusual way. Take this story about two people who were asked to draw a cat. The first, a business-type, drew a stick figure cat, like we drew as kids. The other, an artist, drew a real sketch of the cat in front of her.
The difference is that the artist was trained and practiced not just in the art of drawing, but in the art of seeing. Dropping the filters, leaving behind the childhood patterns and imprints that stopped her from observing what was actually right in front of her. The objective image, rather than the conjured illusion of sight.
The conjured illusion–those imprinted images from our childhood, our marital arguments or the critical first boss. The images or words we’ve held tightly in place all those years. The ones we’ve allowed to seep into our image of ourselves. The artist placed herself in the moment and recreated what she was seeing. By being present she wasn’t letting those old voices, or illusions, control her.
It’s possible that you have an old voice or image stuck in your head. An utterance that you heard and held on to–that has shaped your trajectory through life. Mine came from my mother and it had to do with all the things I did wrong when it came to boys. Boys wouldn’t like me for being too assertive. I would look prettier if I wore more makeup. Blah, blah. I allowed those criticisms to become my story. I heard that voice and I held on to it for far too many years. They started up again when I divorced–same message, different words.
Maybe you’ve heard so many scary stories about menopause that you’re convinced your journey will be awful. Or childhood teachings about sex still make you feel shameful when you desire sex. Or you believed the boss when he called you incompetent.
Dani Shapiro, in Moments of Being, talks about her inner tension as a writer. “…be sure the voice I am most listening to is my own”. How will you know it’s your own voice and not the tape playing in your head? It may feel calm, it may incite passion or a frisson of delight. You may feel a little nervous at the energy surging forth. Our inner voice is never negative. It may challenge us and nudge. But never berate or scold. That’s not our true voice. That one is a learned pattern, a co-opting of someone’s else voice.
You can start to challenge, and erase, those unhelpful voices by being present to what your body feels. It’s a process of letting go. Allow yourself to hear the old story, but don’t act on it–I like to visualize it as a wave coming up on the beach. I caught myself recently saying something to a friend and realized that I was using ‘my story’ not telling my truth. And, those are two different things–particularly if you’re a storyteller. So used to telling that story that I didn’t even know I was doing it. I caught myself and was able to say wait that’s not really how it is.
Equally damaging is the habit of not fully hearing praise or kind words. We deflect the compliment or pretend we didn’t really hear it. I was on a webinar with Jeffrey Davis of Tracking Wonder last week. He asked us to jot down the message we wanted to convey to our reader/client/buyer. I wrote mine down and shared in the comment box. He saw mine first and read it aloud calling it powerful. He said it gave him goosebumps. All the moments of self-doubt, the moments of ‘you’ll never be good enough’ melted away as I took in that affirmation. I felt his connection and allowed myself to absorb it. It cancelled out the old story. It’s not that I’ll now walk around with his praise as my new story; what happened was that some barrier disappeared. It was immediate. Tears flowed and I got the energetic charge that comes with feeling the rightness of something. It’s hard to explain but when it happens we know it.
Before I went to bed that night I shared the story with a friend. After saying good night, as I settled in to my bed I had a little giggling fit (much easier to do when there’s not another person in bed wondering if you’re going mad) and then a few tears and more giggles. It was ecstasy. Finding that moment of true accord–when what you know you want to do with your life feels like a right fit at that exact moment.
To let go of our old stories we have to be aware of their existence in the first place. And, then we get to simply make them disappear. It begins with not stepping into the old story. Let it wash over our toes and slide back into the ocean. We remain intact, firmly grounded in the sand–discarding that old myth we’ve taken on. It’s the beginning of seeing and living with eyes wide open.