This past week, while flipping back and forth between two different books about World War II, I started thinking about stories. Specifically, I started thinking about how when you only focus on one story, you can miss out on a whole world of truth. I don’t mean with books, though. Books were just the catalyst of this realization for me. I’m talking about our own stories — the silent ones in our heads that insist on being loud even when we’re ready to let them go.
I had just read a chapter in The Tattooist of Auschwitz, where an American plane flies over the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, and the prisoners are filled with hope that the Americans will save them. They’re jumping up and down! They’re pointing at the crematoriums, trying to get the Americans’ attention! The Americans, in this story, are a symbol of hope — potential heroes that will see and save these folks.
In Snow Falling on Cedars, though, the American government is rounding up everyone with connections to Japan and taking them into internment camps of their own. Americans, here, are the bad guy.
The contrast between good guys and bad guys between those two stories got me thinking about how often we base our opinions and actions on a single story — a single version of the full truth — without ever stopping to gather more information.
Before you stop reading, thinking I’m about to get into some political discussion, take a breath! That’s not where I’m going with this. Yes, for big, worldwide issues and events, there are always sides to every story. But I’m thinking about stories that are closer to home. I’m thinking about the stories we tell ourselves: the stories in our own, internal world.
A lot of us have stories on repeat that we never think to question; things we never think of getting a second opinion on. These stories can pose us as the bad guy:
– “I’m not good enough.”
– “I’m a failure.”
– “I’m too young.” Or “I’m too old.”
Other stories will pose other people as the bad guy:
– “They hurt me.”
– “They weren’t there when I needed them.”
– “They won’t care what I have to say.”
And maybe, to you, those stories have always been true! But do they help you see the big picture? Or do they keep your own worldview smaller? Most likely, it’s the latter. I want to take this one step further, though.
In The Tattooist of Auschwitz and in real life, the Americans didn’t wind up saving anyone from Auschwitz.
In Snow Falling on Cedars and in real life, the American government let the Japanese Americans out of concentration camps at the end of the war.
In the end, it didn’t matter whether the Americans were the good guy or the bad guy. What mattered was how each individual character took their experience and tried to make the best of it. Each person’s journey is what made these books. “I’m too old” doesn’t a bestselling novel make. Even if those characters had those stories, and I’m sure they had at least the “They hurt me” one, they didn’t let that one story become their only story. They didn’t let it become the focus of their daily life.
Back to you. What stories are you telling yourself? Have you been operating as if one single story is your full story? Has that story helped you make the best of your situation lately, or are you feeling stuck in it? Paralyzed by it?
In our Self Healing 101 course here at Boulder Psychic Institute, we talk about unhelpful stories as attachments, and we give our students the tools to be able to let an old story go (for good) and replace it with something that supports them. You don’t have to be the bad guy anymore, and living a story where someone else is the bad guy isn’t helping you either.
Why not try something new? Change up your story, and create the life you want — no matter where you’ve been.
Blog written with love by the Boulder Psychic Institute
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