Who Would You Be Without Your Story?
This sounds almost silly as I write, but it’s often true - quite often it’s just our own thoughts that are getting in the way of our own happiness. We're so used to carrying around all the baggage that everybody has dumped onto us over the years.
People have created stories about us and given us roles that we didn't agree to!
A true story.....
My two teenage children were arguing in the kitchen, "why don't you ever bring your bowl down and turn your light off and why don't you put your underwear in the wash basket instead of leaving it on the floor......"
"Why should I do what you say, you're not my mum!" and so it went on.
This got me thinking.... Who said it's mum's job to tell everyone what to do? It isn't my job - I didn't apply for it (and actually, I don't do it!)
What is a husband supposed to do?
What is a wife supposed to do?
What are children supposed to do?
So we can see that roles are created for us and by us. They can often be draining, unwanted and often they just they don't work any more!
When our children grow into teenagers, are we still stuck in the role of picking up dirty socks and nagging?
By the time our children leave home, have we forgotten how to love our partners?
So we carry around stories, values and beliefs that no longer serve us.
We empty our rubbish bins most days; when was the last time you emptied your mind?
It’s often very revealing and helpful to understand our stories. They start from the second our parents do a pregnancy test and realise we’re on the way!
It’s a boy because you’re carrying this way
He’s going to strong like his father, just feel how he’s kicking
Then when we are born, OH BOY! The stories REALLY get going then!
He’s got his Grandad’s eyes
He’s been here before
and what about those damaging negative stories?
You'll never amount to anything if you don't do your homework
Why can't you be more like your sister?
You're so clumsy!
You look cheap in that
You should go out more
You should stay in more
He's as think as two short planks
And the assumptions we make... Unbelievable when you start to become aware of these things. I was at the gym and a friend mentioned a conversation she’d had with another parent whose child (lets call him Johnny) was just starting secondary school (age 11). The person said that, when Johnny is doing his A levels my eldest one will be at University! To her credit my friend pointed out that these were two HUGE assumptions. She had already imposed her story on her children. What if the eldest decides to get a job at 17? How might she feel? Let down, maybe she’ll see him as a failure? Disappointed? And all because of a story that she created from her own thoughts.
I often complete genograms with my clients – some extraordinary stuff comes out!
For example, what was your family motto?
Let the battle begin
Mum’ll do it
Let’s just ignore it, it might go away
Face it and get it done
Stiff upper lip
Boys don’t cry
Get it off your chest
You only get rich by ripping people off
Things like that don't happen to people like us
You can see how two families of origin might have completely different styles of dealing with conflict for example, so when partners come together, they can often clash in the way they deal with issues that arise.
When we spend time unpeeling all these complex and unnecessary layers about who we think we should be, its quite liberating. Then you are free to make some different decisions - you might keep some things but have a different attitude because its your choice to do whatever it is you are doing. So if you can't or don't want to change the situation, you can always choose to think about it differently.
This is a very simple idea, but it's not necessarily a skill you can learn overnight.