I woke up this morning thinking about the stories we tell ourselves and how they matter.
In truth, half the time we don’t even realize we’re telling ourselves a story at all. Stories are what allow our minds to make sense of our experiences, our feelings and the world around us. We need stories for this very reason, but which stories we land on can have such a profound impact on how we feel as we move through any experience we are in. I’ve previously written about how powerful it is when we shift our attention to how we DO want to feel in our lives and our world as this shift immediately taps us back into the feeling of possibility, which is a game changer (https://waterleafnaturopathic.com/want-feel-2019/). Becoming choosier about the stories we place our focus on only furthers this.
I remember when I first learned of my daughter’s dyslexia a couple of months ago. The news triggered a cascade of feelings for me. I, myself, had experienced what we’d called “learning problems” 45 years ago. Even the phrase “learning problems” suggests an inherent wrongness. The unseen story I’d told myself about my learning style all those years ago came pouring into my awareness. I discovered my story revolved around the wrongness of my learning differences with the wrongness of me tucked beneath that. You can guess how stories like this feel! Not only are they disempowering, but they also limit our very sense of possibility and hope while moving through an experience.
The stories we focus on influence how we feel as we move through our experiences. We can’t choose a different one if we don’t realize the current story isn’t serving us. Becoming aware of my own story of wrongness that had been born all those years ago ultimately made room for a story of rightness to dawn. I became curious about how I DID want to feel about my unique learning style and this led me to an updated story that made room for the incredible gifts that showed up as a result. It allowed me to start telling a new story that serves me far better. My new story holds a deep appreciation for the myriad ways that my unique approach to learning has so beautifully colored and shaped my world and experiences throughout my life. It turns out my daughter’s dyslexia gave me the gift of an updated story.
I pondered how to help my daughter find a story about her dyslexia that would provide not only understanding but also an appreciation for the unique way her brain is wired to see the world. I shared with her that she has a gift called dyslexia and that one of the things this means is that she can see in 3D. Did you know that research has found that people with dyslexia are able to see in 3D? I explained that she can see letters, numbers and other things from the front and from the back and sometimes this can make reading, writing or math tricky if she doesn’t know when her superpower is on and when it is off. I outlined our intention to find tools to help her learn when it’s on and off, as this would make it easier for her to benefit from her superpower without it feeling frustrating. We wondered together about all the possible ways that she will end up being able to apply this beautiful gift to her life.
Can you feel the difference between the story of wrongness I once told myself about my learning differences and this new story that my daughter has begun to tell? Each one impacts the experience and the way we feel in it in a profound way, although in notably divergent directions.
What are the stories in your life that hold your focus right now? Are they empowering? Do they help you feel a sense of possibility and hope about your experience? Is there another story to be told that might change your very experience with whatever challenge you are navigating?
These are questions I have learned to ask myself. I don’t always remember right away. Sometimes I find myself in the middle of an experience before I remember. There was a time in my life when I didn’t have any idea that my stories might be impacting my experiences. I didn’t even know stories were being told! Once I discovered their presence, though, holy cow did that tap me into new possibilities!
What I do know is that despite how often my brain tries to convince me that there is only one way to see a situation and one story to tell, there are, in fact, many possible stories and perspectives and the ones we choose to focus on really do influence the very experiences we have.
I wonder how we can invite even more curiosity into our experiences, even the challenging ones? How might this curiosity lead us to discover how we really DO want to feel? How might this open us to stories once unseen that are influencing how we feel as we move through the very experiences we are in? This awareness alone automatically creates the possibility for a different story to emerge. What if the new story is one that changes what’s felt impossible for moments, days, months or even years? Isn’t that exciting to ponder?!
Emily Colwell, MSSW, ND