Wednesday, September 24, 2008

You Can't Heal a Story

The quote, "You can't heal a story," comes from Stephen Wolinsky and is one of many wonderful quotes found in If the Buddha Got Stuck: A Handbook for Change on a Spiritual Path by Charlotte Kasl, Ph.D.

There is so much about this book I like, so I will share another quote with you--from the chapter Notice the Stories You Tell Yourself. "Buddhism teaches us to be aware of the stories we tell ourselves. Stories are usually about the past or center around wishful thinking. They take us into our heads and stop us from being in our current experience with our feelings and emotions. It's like commenting on life rather than living it.

"Because is a common word in many stories. 'I can't swim because someone scared me as a child.' 'I don't push myself because I don't want to outshine my family.' 'I can't lose weight because I'm afraid of intimacy.' The internal response to such statements could well be, 'How do you know?' 'What have you tried?'"

14 comments:

Jazz said...

Susan--
I don't think a lot of people realize how much power the stories that we tell ourselves actually hold over us. One of the things I've tried to develop in my journal writing is the ability to really look at the stories I'm telling myself...and try to determine whether they are "true" stories or not, and whether they serve me or damage me.

Wellness Writer said...

Jazz,
What's illuminating is that I never thought about this before in quite this way. But I certainly agree that the stories we tell ourselves can either "serve us or damage us."

Susan

JayPeeFreely said...

There is probably a lot of advice that sounds correct about the choices we make and where we should go, in going forward.

The past. You cannot just ignore it or dismiss it. Just about everything done related to getting a job is tied to your resume. What have you done? What are the accomplishments of living x years? Why is there a gap somewhere?

Siddhārtha Gautama didn't exactly have it all that bad. But he walked away from his family; set out on a new course. Many of us do (sometime), and fail because of our spirit, our lack of talent, drive or whatever it is the holds us back.

Often, it is just we aren't that willing to risk poverty and dispair for a silly dream of being totally in the now. (Or that higher plane most don't really know that much about even when 'they think they are' on it...)

Personally, I can't erase the last eight years. The world has changed significantly, if you are labeled, and therefore, making some new path is inevitably wrought with places to stumble and fall. (And many, many do - we just don't hear their stories because that wouldn't sell.)

The present. If you just start out without the proper guidance, you will fail miserably. It is easy for the people having enough going right to fix the things inherently not so good with them. Especially, if they have no real down sides in their immediate past or responsibilities to the present. (No kids to care for, or mortgage to pay. Or just wishing things could be a bit better...who doesn't it?)

You can't heal a story. Nor can you make one up that fits whatever conclusions you've made about yourself. Someone knows. Or someone can see through the bull. And finding some miracle through spiritual contemplation is at best a tedious, and often, failing errand.

Most self-help seems to work for people that are just in that mid-life crisis mode, or stuck student mode or someone who just ain't cut out for the 9-6 corporate world. But to really address people with really, really detrimental situations, I find nothing of value on that market.

I am being (negative) because though many would say I jump from one thing to another, they often forget unless I try to knock on numerous doors, some lightly tapped, others beaten on loudly, there is no way to escape the life currently led. (And I often write about relevant stuff - to myself and others - with the knowledge it goes by the board.)

I've tried and often succeeded in changing something about myself too.
1) Lost 30 lbs. in 3 months without some diet or exercise plan made up in a book. (And currently have lost 15 lbs. in 4 weeks.)
2) Stopped drinking without AA for 19 months. (But now realize that wasn't the 'real' problem. And currently haven't been drunk in over 6 1/2 years.)
3) Write instead of Engineer. Nevertheless, it is a change.
4) Read more.
5) Get by with less.

Maybe it isn't spiritual, but what spiritual nature I see in others can be usually ruined inside of a lucky break or success-come-money break.

Whether they really got down to the spiritual is a matter of who saw what when.

But that's my point of view today. Who knows, tomorrow may be different.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear JayPeeFreely,
I know you probably know that I don't agree with you on this. You also know that I'm aware of what you've experienced and I know you've tried hard to change your life.

However, I still firmly believe that people can change their lives. We can reinvent ourselves--despite whatever has happened in the past.

And there are so many success stories to validate my belief (as well as stories of failure and despair to validate yours).

Sometimes, the reason why things don't go as we want/hope them to is because we think we've changed, but we're bringing the same baggage with us.

Or we are so embarrassed by the past that we are unable to hold our heads high, show we've changed, and prove that we are truly a different person.

One of my fundamental beliefs is that people can change. But, in order to do that we need to feel good about ourselves. We need to feel we're worthwhile and deserve happiness and success.

Sometimes we need to move to a different location so that we can be given a new chance. Sometimes, we need to work on who we are inside so that people can get to know the "real" person.

But most of all, we need to believe in ourselves--even when others reject us, even when we seem unable to achieve our goals, even when things look bleak.

If you want to discuss this further, we need to do it offline, but I'm willing to explore this with you.

Susan
P.S. I won't be able to get back to you until much later. I have a class today and I've got dozens of things to do for my 40th high school reunion on Saturday night.

Jazz said...

I guess maybe to clarify...I'm not advocating that we tell ourselves a pack of lies to make ourselves feel better...but so much of what we feel about our past is based upon perspective...whether you choose to look at yourself as (a) a failure, (b)someone who had some really bad luck, or (c) someone who did the best they could with what they had during a difficult situation. I know darn well that the way I choose to look at past events has a huge impact on how I see myself. A lot of it has to do with accepting the past and moving on, and learning from the things you've experienced.

I understand that for some of us that's a lot harder than for others, and that can be true for a lot of reasons: a brutal past or an unwillingness to admit to ourselves that we've made mistakes, for example.

I'm not saying we should all be Pollyannas...but I do think that a lot of us could benefit from not beating ourselves up over things we cannot change.

Just my two coppers.

P.J. said...

I think the trouble comes when we let our past hold us back from trying and doing better. Every morning is a new chance to start over. That doesn't mean it's going to be easy, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

"Today is the first day of the rest of your life."

Wellness Writer said...

Jazz,
Once again, I agree. I, too, don't think we need to be Pollyanna's (although I may have felt that way when I was younger). But we also don't need to be Aunt Polly either--and see everything and everyone as bad.

And I believe people sometimes think they're moving on, but they're not because they see themselves as the "bipolar manic person," or the "low- energy depressed person," or whatever.

But they probably weren't always manic or depressed and they need to find the healthy person inside.

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

PJ,
I agree with you. I've always loved the song "The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow" from the musical, Annie. And if it sounds like I'm a Cockeyed Optimist, well that was the name of one of my favorite songs from the musical South Pacific.

Susan

Mariposa said...

This opens another interesting discussion, as always...

I am mindful on what stories I tell myself...though I do not edit them to suit and please myself, I make sure at the end of it, hope is always there and that whatever goodness it has, it outshines the rest.

I remember a line from Anna and the King, when Anna was asked by one of the King's wife how do you get by (referring to lost loved ones) Anna replied, one awful day at a time. She was a strong woman. Yet...the line has dramatic effect, yet I will never quote it for myself.

I get by because I have learned to pacify myself...I have learned to comfort myself...I have learned to make myself laugh...smile...hope. And my tools? The different stories I have to tell myself before I close my eyes, and when I open my eyes the next day.

This blog, is a one good story Ihave for myself...and I'm sure others feel the same way.

Wellness Writer said...

Mariposa,
Once again I agree with your "sunny outlook" on life. Yes, I also believe that there needs to be hope at the end of the story. If not, what do we have to look forward to?

And thank you for the compliment about my blog. I genuinely appreciate it!

Susan

Andrea said...

Unfortunately there are those who remove themselves of the task of looking at their stories by passing them on to their children. Maybe it's my age, or where I have come to, but I have been noticing too many instances of that these days. And it makes me very sad, because as much control as I have over my learning I still have to watch people who are close to me who don't, or won't.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Andrea,
There are always people who "can't" or "won't" assume responsibility for any aspect of their lives. If they're related to you, the best you can do is try to erect boundaries to protect yourself. And it's never easy!

Susan

echopen said...

"Because" is a word we often use when we are looking for the "Why's" and The "why's" we look for are a rationalization of our present situation of our stories.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Echopen,
Welcome to my blog. I believe Dr. Kasl is saying that "because is an excuse." And I'm assuming you're agreeing if you're saying that "because" is a rationalization.

Susan