We all tell ourselves stories about our past but is your narrative about your past serving you today?
These experiences can not be changed. The time machine has yet to be invented. But that doesn't mean that we can't look at our past story and examine if we are telling it in a way that serves us today.
The “stories” we tell ourselves … they are neither false nor true. They are the narrative we tell ourselves based on our experiences, our perspective of the world, and our interpretation of facts as we see them.
Different people look at the same situation and tell a very different situation. I have 9 siblings and I have learned that we usually all tell a very different version of the same experience.
Your perspective about that memory all depends on what you choose to focus on in that past experience.
For example, my sisters and I took a winter cross-country trip driving to college where we all drove different cars and ended up wreaking two of the three cars (we are complete southern girls who do not do well driving in snow). My sisters tell the story very differently from me. I loved the trip because I had just gotten engaged and got to drive with John and I got to see what a hero he was in these accidents. My focus was on how amazing John was and their focus was the accidents and wrecked cars. See how we can share the same memory but our focus can either bring us positive or negative feelings today?
In order to have better results today, you have to challenge your thinking about the past. Is the story about your past creating a present-day feeling of unworthiness. If there is, it is time to challenge what you are focusing on in that story.
Think about the possibilities if you could learn to refocus your thoughts about the past from negative to how it was a perfect experience for your growth.
It is important to examine how you are telling your "stories" because how you tell your "story" will affect your current and future stories.
If you can learn to be open to the perspective that there are options to your past narrative you will realize that changing your personal narrative might serve you.
Timothy Wilson, Ph.D., a social psychologist at the University of Virginia, is an expert in what he calls “story editing,” a way to edit our stories by rewriting the path we are taking. “Our experience of the world is shaped by the stories we tell ourselves and our interpretations of it, and these stories can often become so distorted and destructive that they completely hinder our ability to live balanced, purposeful, happy lives. So the key to personal transformation is story transformation.”
The Past Can't cause You Pain
The past can't cause you pain today - only your present thoughts about the past can. Your current thinking about your past is what is causing you pain today, not the events that happened in the past. These thoughts are creating an emotion you are feeling today. The reason we need to reframe these painful stories is that negative emotions can cause negative actions in the present.
I had a teacher in elementary who treated me very unfairly and cruelly. For years this memory caused me a lot of pain and affected my actions toward other teachers and my feelings about school. The event happened in the past but I was still letting myself feel present-day pain which caused me to feel less than especially in present teacher relationships. In order to stop feeling that pain I had to reframe the story.
I learned the skill of reframing and today I can think and tell the story without feeling pain. I realized that how that teacher treated me had nothing to do with me. I understand that she must have been in a lot of personal pain because healthy adults don't treat children in the way I was treated. Reframing this memory enabled me to give compassion to her and to myself and I no longer felt powerless. I now understand that I did nothing wrong and I feel great love for my 10-year-old self and for my teacher who must have been in pain. I can see that I learned something that day - that even adults are human beings and can make mistakes and that lesson was valuable for me to learn.
Are you letting your past affect your current self-worth?
For years I had let my story about the cruel teacher affect how I felt about myself. I did not feel worthy to create relationships with my new teachers and that created negative results in my life.
Today I realized how wrong my thinking was. I was still being a victim of her cruelty. I didn't realize that there were options for how I was telling myself that story. I could have told the story in a way that I was completely worthy but I didn't know how.
The best way to learn to reframe the story is to be curious about what happened and why. Can you understand why everybody took the actions they did? I'm not saying you have to agree with what they did or think it was right, but can you try to understand their perspective? Can you be curious about why they took those actions? I have found that when I get curious that usually gives me some space to find grace for others. Only after giving grace will you find love and once you can love all the past characters is when you are truly free from the past causing you pain today.
Thinking New Thoughts about Your Past
In order to have better results today, you have to challenge your thinking about the past. Is the story about your past creating a present-day feeling of unworthiness. If it is, it is time to challenge what you are focusing on in that story.
Can you reframe the past experience of how that experience made you strong today? How can your refocus serve you better today? When I learned to reframe my painful elementary story it increased my self-worth. Experiencing that story gave me knowledge on how to be a better adult. It made me a better leader to youth because it taught me the power an adult has over children. Having strong self-worth helps me create the future I want for myself. Learning to use your past to benefit you today is the key to being an emotional adult.
Your Past doesn't Decide Your Future
You get to decide who you are today. Do you allow your past to define you today? Notice that is a choice you are making, You hold all the power to decide how you feel about yourself. Who you are is completely determined by the way you think about yourself today not what happened to you in your past.
Reshaping your past to serve you gives you great power to create your future to what you want it to be.
My all-time favorite quote is:
"You either love someone or you don't understand them."
Taking the time to try to understand people's actions will give you the opportunity to drop judgment about them. Remember, you are the only one feeling that judgment (which never feels good) so it benefits you to try to understand their actions to feel a more positive emotion about others' actions in your past. We are human beings. Human beings are not perfect. It helps to remember this truth when we tell our narrative about others and ourselves.
I recently had the opportunity to tell our past and the current story about raising our son. I was interviewed by Richard Ostler on his Listen, Learn & Love podcast. If you would like to listen to the episode here is the link:https://soundcloud.com/user-818501778/episode-289-jenie-hunter-active-lds-mother-of-a-gay-son
This experience taught me how even painful times can teach us so much and actually have a lot of positives to learn. Learning the skill of reframing your past story is an option available to all of us. I would love to teach you this skill. There is no reason for you to be a victim to your past, it doesn't serve you in any way today. Book a session to start the journey of becoming completely free from negative emotions about your past.