The Stories We Tell Ourselves

“I don’t have the money...”

“Being overweight just runs in my family....”

“My child is so difficult….”

“My boss is a jerk!”

How many times does one of the above (or your own variation!) start a dramatic episode in your mind?

Now picture this.

It’s the middle of winter and it’s freezing outside. You’re watching TV when a commercial advertising a sunny Florida Keys vacation comes on.

You start to think:

  • “Oh how I wish I could take that trip!”

  • “But I don’t have the money.”

  • “And my credit cards are almost maxed.”

  • “And God, I hate my boss, she didn’t even give me credit or say thanks for that report I just completed and I worked late nights at the office for three days in a row.”

  • “That’s because my boss just loves my co-worker Josh. It’s because he’s a guy and he charms her. Hey, I wonder if they are sleeping together. I bet that’s it!”

  • “I’ll never get a promotion at the office. Especially because I won’t stoop to the low morals of Josh. I mean our boss is a married woman! People are horrible.”

  • “Sally in the next apartment, she has the life. She has a job she loves, I’ve seen flowers delivered to her door -- so I guess she has a great boyfriend too.”

  • “Why is my life so crappy?”

So let’s unpack what’s happening here.

#1 ::  A thought pops into our heads.

Seeing the commercial for the sunny trip to Florida gets the wheels turning.

#2 :: The thought triggers a story.

Let’s call this particular story “I have no money”.

We all have stories around our own personal situations. These stories are based on a past situation where we experienced an unpleasant situation and we’ve subconsciously connected it to a conclusion.

We then spend every opportunity we have looking for the “facts” to prove our conclusion right. Our brains hate to be wrong!

#3 :: The story plays out into an epic drama.

It may be a little different every time, but the plot and the characters tend to stay the same. You use valuable brain power and energy playing this award-winning telenovela in your head.

That thought loop leads to chemicals being released in your brain that makes you feel like crap. Your energy plummets, you’re exhausted and your mood is in the toilet.

So why do we do this?

Well to start, our more primitive brain is trying to protect us. When we our story gets triggered we want to avoid the unpleasant situation we have conditioned ourselves to expect. This is important to note, we have conditioned ourselves to expect—it’s fiction not fact. So our brain uses the negativity bias to protect us.

After years of this our brains become automatically launch into this thought pattern. In fact, science proves repetitive thoughts create grooves in our brain, which create patterns and those patterns show up as results in our day-to-day.  

With 95% of our day run by our subconscious (think about that—almost 100%!) it’s no wonder our minds take off with the story we’ve created. On top of all of this, our subconscious is a real lazy bones and wants to prove itself right—so it will pick up on evidence to support its story, and then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sneaky, right?

But we can change the process!

And this is exciting, because it gives us the power to change our lives. Remember, you may have been tuning into this particular episode of “I have no money.” for years. So it’s going to take time to change the channel to a new story.

So start with awareness.

Awareness that it is…

  • a thought;

  • your story;

  • based on a lot of fiction;

  • designed to keep you safe (thanks, but no thanks subconscious!)

And then… tell yourself a new story. A story that feels a whole lot better.

Marissa Bishop