The Power and Peril of Stories

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Fictive language is nothing new to us. Humans have been telling stories ever since we developed a voice box. In fact, the voice box may have developed partly because of the urge to express this unique ability of the human brain – that of symbolic thought.

At the heart of a good story lies the emotional connection. When we connect to a story, we begin to play it in our minds like a movie. We start substituting characters we know and situations we can relate to. It impacts us at an emotional level and stays in our memories.

Have you ever tried to recall a story you read – what do you remember of it? It is likely the characters, the emotions and perhaps a line or two – the really short and meaningful ones. That is what story does to us – it stays in our minds with a message and an emotion attached that replays itself every time we are in a situation that reminds us of the story in some way.

As a little kid, I have the fondest memories of my grandmother telling me bedtime stories of my own childhood as I dozed off every night into dreams of being showered with sweet love and unbridled powers. I remember the warmth and influence of those stories, they made me feel capable, confident and strong. And they never left me.

Although bedtime stories are sadly being engulfed in the throttle of the fast-paced times we live in, we still continue to tell stories, to others, but mostly to ourselves. It is the one conversation we will continue until the day we die, the voice in our heads that constantly tells us what we did right, what we did wrong, why someone behaved the way they did, how we got to do what we did and what we didn’t.

And that is where we can get into trouble. We can all remember times when we have gotten carried away with our imaginations, and believed scenarios that, on further investigation, were purely just that, a figment of our imagination. Why our friend did not show up at the cinema, why the salesperson attended to other customers before us, why we did not get the job we applied for.

There is a reason why countless philosophers and psychologists have warned us of the perils of assuming our perceptions to be reality, my personal favorite being George Bernard Shaw’s quote: “Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world”.

If we listen deeply to these stories we tell ourselves and learn to distinguish reality from perception, the actual from the imagined, we may be able to change many of the self-defeating stories into empowering ones and conquer many of the dreams that we unconsciously allow our internal stories to quash.

 

Now I’d love to hear back from you! Are you aware of the stories you tell yourself? Do they propel you ahead or are they holding you back?

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