The Stories We Tell Ourselves
We all have stories about our lives. There are good stories and bad stories. But, what determines whether or not a story is good or bad? We do. We have the choice to make a story good or bad. The stories in our past that we view as negative, perhaps, just need to be seen in a different light.
The Benefit of Different Perspective
One of my college professors once told me that he assigned a previous class an argumentative paper in which they had to defend a position with which they disagreed. He did this to strengthen their own views. If you believe something and want to defend that belief, you must anticipate the objections that will be made by someone of the opposite belief. Once you have a better understanding of the other side’s support for their argument, you can better refute their position.
When we look at the events of our lives from all angles, we gain a better understanding of how those events affect us. Looking at an event differently might make you realize some of the positives about it.
One way of going about this is to reframe stories in our memories. For example, early in February 2018, I was dumped by a girl I had been dating for the previous six months, and I was crushed. I could look back on that time and think about how I failed to keep that relationship alive and how miserable I was. However, I could also look at that time and tell myself that my ex-girlfriend gave up on the relationship, that it was not my fault, that I survived the emotional turmoil of the breakup, that it is a good example of how I can persevere in difficult trials, and that I can overcome challenges.
Taking an approach like this can be beneficial for healing some of our painful memories. We can look back on difficult times and see how our strengths shined and helped us through our difficulties. Rather than be subjected to lament and anguish, we can look on painful moments in our past as moments of growth.
Bird’s Eye View
Another way to gain a new perspective is to look at things from a bird’s eye view. When we look with a narrow focus on events, we only see a small part of a much greater event. Zooming out and examining things from a distance takes the emotion out of our trials, and we can see more possibilities.
Using the aforementioned example about my breakup back in February of 2018, I can look at that from a distance and see how hard I was trying to be someone I was not in that relationship. I felt I needed to be different to keep her around. Now, I can see how unhealthy that relationship was and how the breakup was good because it freed me to pursue healthier relationships, relationships in which I can be myself without shame.
Starting to think different about the stories in our lives is not easy and takes some practice. One way to foster this type of mindset is to play with some questions that can be answered in multiple ways. For example, what days start with T? Your first instinct probably is to say, “Tuesday and Thursday,” but there are other ways to answer that question. You could say, “Today and tomorrow,” or, “The 10th, 13th, and 30th of every month.” If you press yourself harder and, perhaps, ask the question only out loud (as opposed to just reading it), you could say that every day you start the day with a cup of tea is a day that starts with tea. Look online for more of these puzzlers.