That Story In Your Head Is Not True

2000px-Thought_bubble.svg.pngThere’s a script that runs in everyone’s head about who they are, what they’re supposed to do and how to react to everything that occurs in life. This script sometimes tells you you’re no good or you’re above everyone else, or it tells you that you shouldn’t have kids because you wouldn’t be a great parent. It tells you that you should go to college and get that corporate job or be a freelance artist. It also tells you that you should hangout more with that person as opposed to that other one. It tells us that we have disadvantages because of our background and how we were raised or it tells you that everything was handed to you. It will tell you that you’re too skinny, too fat, too nice, too aggressive, etcetera, etcetera.

You see, there’s a script running in all our minds about absolutely every aspect of ourselves and our lives and unlike a movie or play script it doesn’t end after a couple of hours. It is a never-ending chat occurring in our minds from the time we wake up to the time we snooze again for the night. The unfortunate thing is that most of us never stop to unravel the plot of the scripts running in our head. Think about it, if you’re reading a book you haven’t read before or watching a movie you haven’t seen before you may not necessarily know the next chapter or scene in the story, but you know there’s a plot and the further along you get the clearer the plot becomes—all the scenes and all the pages before start to connect in a way that you didn’t quite see as you were going through the story.

In our lives, we run a script in our minds and we live a story in our lives whose final conclusion is in a graveyard and because of how long our stories are sometimes we don’t stop to connect the previous chapters of our lives to see if they form some sort of plot. For many of us, even though we do not realize it, we walk through life like zombies—we are too caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life to see if we are headed towards a meaningful destination and even before that to see if the story we have been living up till now is a fiction or non-fiction piece of work.

Do you know for example that most of the stories we tell ourselves are completely false? Let me put this into perspective. Several times over the last few years, I’ve had friends tell me that they would never have children or start a family. And I would ask, why? You know what the usual answers would be: oh, I don’t think I’d be a good parent or kids aren’t my thing or I want to be able to give my kids the world and I don’t think I will ever be able to. What’s interesting though is that as I kept getting deeper with my questions, it became abundantly clear that these stories they were telling themselves and now me were not their own at all—it was their parents’. Over the course of several conversations, I got to understand that most of my friends and people I’ve met who tell me this had some sort of unfulfilling childhood or trauma growing up—perhaps a parent that abandoned them or a parent who was there but not really there for them, some sort of abuse and variations thereof.

Now, I’m not saying that these childhood traumas are the end-all-be-all cause of why someone may not want to have kids. Some may not want to for very healthy reasons and some may not be able to. But, by far and large, my observation is that people who were not raised in the way they think they ought to have been raised can have a complex relationship with not just the idea of parenting, but the idea of intimacy, of having a certain career and of many other things. However, these ideas most often are formulated as part of a script that is programmed into our minds from the time we are born and what we need to realize are that these scripts are hand-me-downs from whoever gave them to us. Our parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, friends, teachers, and whoever else we spent the most of our time with. And these hand-me-down scripts are hand-me-downs from their guardians and their guardians’ guardians and…you get the rest of the story.

We run on scripts that may have worked for an ancestor of whoever raised us, but if we dig deeply enough does not work for us. Yet, and here is the thing, most of us never stop to question whether these scripts—these ideas, beliefs, and thoughts—that we run on and that were passed on to us, we don’t stop to think if they’re actually ours or if they are even productive for the lives we are trying to lead. We don’t stop to think if the plots of these scripts are really what we want our lives to mean. Because, you see, if we are running the same script/story as our parents and grandparents we most likely we’ll have the same conclusion or a variation thereof as they do.

Now don’t get me wrong here, not all the stories in our heads are bad. In fact, some are very good. We may have strong scripts, for example, that tell us we should treat others as we want to be treated and that we should be bold and courageous. These are good and all, but we should not at the same time dismiss the subplot underlying those. There are people who, by virtue of the example of people before them, feel that they ought to be giving to the point where they ignore their own needs and there are people who are courageous to the point of diving off too-high of a cliff to be safe. That is why it is essential that we all periodically take a moment in our lives to truly unravel the plots and subplots of our stories.

I personally went through this exercise a while back and I was shocked to discover how many of both my good and bad outcomes were directly a result of stories I’d learned directly and indirectly growing up about how I should behave in life. I was able to trace back certain habits that have been tough-as-nails for me to break back to observations and inferences I made as a little kid from watching my family and friends growing up. I saw the good and the great, and the bad and the ugly of everything I had picked up. And I realized that even with the good habits and beliefs I picked up that the variation of these good things I picked up from the people around me where not always the variation that served what I knew to be my mission and purpose in life.

And so my journey, and I believe a lot of our journeys, is a mix of uncovering the scripts we picked up and continue to pick up and who we are picking them up from and then deciding whether these scripts are in alignment with our goals and missions in our relationships, careers, health, and otherwise. Once we determine whether these scripts are in alignment with us then we have to consciously decide to let go of the ones that are not serving our purpose and every time we find ourselves slipping back into a pattern of behavior that is not in alignment with the vision we have for our lives, we’ve got to gently remind ourselves that we are running the script of our mothers, our fathers, our aunt and uncles, our guardians, and whoever else it may be that we got it from and that we need to be aware of the fact that we should be running on our own script.  Even for the good scripts and values that are in alignment with our vision, we have to make sure that we are running on a variation of them that is true to our purpose and goals and that we’re not playing them out exactly as we saw them in those we picked them up from, but as they should be ran in the kind of plot you have for your life in the next 20-30 days or 20-30 years.

If you liked this post or some of my past entries, then I’ve got good news for you—I am working on a piece that really dives into all the common scripts we tell ourselves and how to identify and address them, as well as all the other topics I have covered over the last couple of weeks and more. I am going to be taking my gloves off on this one and giving you my best strategies and tools for living the kind of life you want to live! Unfortunately it won’t be available until my forthcoming book is released sometime in the last quarter of this year—more details on that soon to come! So if you have any ideas, topics, questions and thoughts about what you want to hear more of let me now so I can make sure I deliver the most valuable tools and intel to you and in the book. Till next time!

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