by Dalva Church
That which causes us to behave a certain way is our story. For many of us, there is our story, our parents’ story, our family story, our ancestral story, our cultural story, our school or work story, our relationship story, and many, many more.
Once a story and its characters are created, the story takes on a life of its own. it wants to live and grow.
This is true for the stories of individuals, groups, and even nations. Many authors will tell you that, often times, once they begin a story, it seems to write itself and to go in unplanned directions. You may have noticed that, once an author begins a series of books, subsequent books come in relatively quick succession. The story is writing itself. This is also true in our lives. We may inherit a story, or create it, but it takes on its own life through us. It motivates us to behave in certain ways that are in line with the elements of the story.
An example of this would be when a child grows up in an abusive household and identifies with the person being abused. Their story is one of victimhood. Even after they leave home, the story of the victim self causes then to aunt enter bad situations, attract abusive relationships, and can even cause them to turn daily events into situations where they are victims. Such choices as which product to buy at the store can be influenced by the story. There will be an urge to pick up the one box that has a defective item out of hundreds of perfectly functioning products. They may choose a restaurant with salmonella, the car with a brake system that will fail just after the warranty ends, or the vacation spot that will experience bad weather.
Many teachers have commented on this through the centuries in different ways. Most recently Eckhardt Tolle has called this collection of stories that take on a life of their own the “pain body,” and that mental picture has been helpful to many people.
Understand that all behavior grows out of a story—especially behavior that you dislike in yourself, or feel you cannot stop. You may not be aware of this story, but be sure it is there when you have a belief system or an identity. Your sense of reality is subtly altered until you only see things as they are filtered through your story systems.
Think of stories as programs, such as computer programs. Many of us have so many programs running all the time that we no longer have any sense of who we are. The one thing the stories do not want is to have attention directly paid to them. They are like the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz. The story does not want you to be aware of it, just as the makers of SpyWare hope you never notice their programs on your computer. Once you are aware of a story, truly aware of it as it exists separately from you, then it loses power over you. Because of this, stories encourage and enable addictive and avoidant behavior. The more preoccupied you are— the more caught up in distraction—the less likely you will see the stories that are really running the show.
Be very aware of this—stories create worlds.
Behind most of those stories there runs a common root cause—fear. There is a simple solution to this problem. Stop believing your stories. That’s it. To do that, however, takes some courage. You must stop avoiding, and start looking squarely at what you fear, what hurts, what lurks just out of sight. Instead of running from pain, dive into it, look at it, see where it is coming from, and feel it completely. That sounds difficult and it is. However, the truth is, that whatever looks so terrifying, when you draw back the curtain, is just a few words put together in a certain way.
Steps for looking behind the curtain:
1 . You feel the urge to do a compulsive behavior. it might be eating, drinking, smoking, gaming, TV watching, working, complaining, or anything that all that you use for comfort or to avoid.
- Pause. Look at the feeling. Allow it to spread through you and fill you. Just breathe with it. Notice the fear. Feel it.
- Listen to what the story says to you. It may be memories, self-talk, phrases, a picture. Breathe deeply and feel the story filling you— filling your mind and your body. Observe it.
- Now say to the story, “I don’t believe in you anymore. This story is over.” Say it to each story involved in the behavior or feeling. If you feel pain or fear, allow it. It will quickly pass. You may even feel panic. That’s OK, it will pass
- Let the story dissolve. Often, the compulsion will leave. If not, that’s OK. The important thing is to begin seeing and hearing the stories and freeing yourself from them.
Eventually you will find that you no longer need any stories. You don’t need nation, race, politics, cultural norms, groups, or any other story to define life or yourself. You just are. Life just is. In order for something to remain, it must die many times. So must the universe. So must we.