We are each filled with 10,000 stories. We begin collecting stories when we are very young. Some are tales that we’ve lived, some have been passed down, and some we read, hear, or see. This constellation of stories becomes our personal tapestry which both guides and defines us. It is colorful, textured, detailed, and complex, but sometimes one or two stories will dominate a story tapestry. When this happens the rich and exciting tales that help us put our lives in context become obscure and navigating through life can become a painful journey.
These gluttonous stories that try to take over come in different forms. Let’s take a look at where these domineering tales come from and what we can do about them.
A trauma may be a catalyst. Since traumas are often dramatic and all consuming, it’s no surprise that powerful or loud stories often emerge. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in and of itself, but as time goes by these bright spots on our story tapestry should merge into the pattern of our life. Unfortunately the effects of some traumas linger and dominate everything we do. A death of a child, sexual abuse, bankruptcy, or a terrible accident are examples of life changing events. Although they will change us, if they redefine us and affect all things, all of the stories that came before and all of the stories that will come after may be distorted.
Both positive and negative labels can also take over. For example a person with a disability is often defined by that disability in all things and it is easy for the individual to see him or herself only as the disability. A positive label can be just as bad. The prettiest girl in high school is often discounted, chased, and hated all at the same time. If the beauty label sticks, all of her stories and memories may be tarnished as time goes by.
Sometimes an event redefines a person. For example October 14, 2003 Steve Bartman sat in the first row of seats in Wrigley Field for Game 6 of the National League Championship series; Chicago Cubs faced the Florida Marlins. He reached out to catch a foul ball and deflected it from left fielder Mosises Alou. It cost them the game and the series. He has been called the most hated fan in baseball. That happened a decade ago. It’s the sort of label that can overwhelm, but Bartman took action to play down the event, avoid interviews and move forward.
One or two stories should not dominate our lives. That fact might seem obvious, but dealing with the gluttonous story can feel overwhelming. Here are a few suggestions for cutting those stories down to the right size.
- Don’t go it alone: Seek out a story coach or friends to help you.
- Give your other stories time to be seen and heard. Work with a storyteller to reclaime them.
- Small stories are valuable gems, don’t overlook them.
- If your domineering story sneaks into most or all of your stories, try to retell them, removing that story element.
Learn more about story coaching or schedule a session with me at Rivka@SimplyExtraordinaryTales.com.
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