Tag Archives: junk story

When junk stories become personal (5 in a Series of 8)

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By Rivka Willick

The stories we tell, read, hear, see, and experience become part of our personal life-map which provide a context for each of us to organize and help understand the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual challenges that we face every day. When we fill our life map with a wide range of quality stories, we will be able to explore and embrace individual trials and opportunities. If we’ve filled up on junk, our ability to access memories, emotions, and information will be compromised.

Sometimes we become dependent and begin to identify with the junk stories we’ve consumed. When the world begins to be an extension of addictive or compulsive content, the self will begin to lose bits of its genuineness.

I remember a woman who lived across the street when I was a teenager.  She needed her Soaps every day. She once told me that if she missed even part of one of her afternoon shows, her entire day was ruined.  She also used the characters in the show to fill up her day, they often showed up in conversations.

Discussions of popular stories are commonplace, but if these discussions are only recitations of plot points or characters or if you catch yourself living vicariously through these stories, the junk might be taking over.  Check to see if you are the only one really talking.  Try to expand these conversations into topics that matter. Remember, junk dumbs you down and dulls emotional responses, so push through it.

Junk stories also tend to draw individuals away from others and build a narcissistic attitude.  Are you isolating, monopolizing conversations, or telling personal stories that are self-focused often with a harsh and sometimes offensive edge?  Are you elevating yourself at the cost of others?  If so, please consider reducing your junk story intake.  Push yourself to explore new types of stories and seek out opportunities to interact and empathize with others.

Next Blog:           Weening Off a Junk Story Diet

The Risks of Living on a Junk Story Diet

By Rivka Willick

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We process and store the stories we hear and read just as surely as we ingest and process the food we eat. Stories, just like food, offer a wide range of benefits and risks. The best tales will challenge the mind, generate courage and hope to the heart, and inspire the spirit. Toxic stories, and yes there are many that act like poison, can generate fear, mistrust, hatred, hopelessness, cruelty, and confusion. During this month’s exploration, we will look at the stories that are somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.  I call them Junk Stories.  Enjoying Junk Stories in moderation is OK, but if you fill up on Junk your mind, heart, and spirit will suffer.

Let’s take a closer look at the negative effects of consuming too many junk stories.

Dumbing Down – Stories can fill us up mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  When the content is challenging, curious, or inspiring we grow and flourish. However, if the content is pleasant or titillating but lacks substance, we can spend our mental and emotional energy with little in return. That’s OK in moderation, just as a handful of potato chips are also OK.  Problems arise when we take more than just a handful. Remember the old Lays Potato Chip slogan, “bet you can’t eat just one!” Focusing on just one type of story or binging for hours or days on a series are serious signs of a JUNK STORY DIET. Remember, there are structures used purposefully to ‘hook you’ and keep you coming back. The story in and of itself is OK, dependency isn’t.

Lack of Empathy & Narcissism – Stories are bridges and often become connectors between people, cultures, and different ways of life, but they can also act like a funhouse mirror reflecting how we see ourselves, often in a distorted way.  We’ve all met the guy at a party who monopolizes the conversation with self-aggrandizing tales; people will walk away or try to change the topic but he just doesn’t stop. Personal stories are now one of the hottest trends, but when these tales are solely focused on just the teller, often jumping from one gory or shocking event to another, narcissism has fertile soil to grow.  A diet of shocking stories can also reduce your ability to empathize.

Isolation – Some stories expand the world and others insulate the reader creating a bubble for the reader or listener to escape into. Vacations are good, imprisonment is bad.  If you feel entrapped by media, addictive novels, or your own stories, you need to turn those off and find stories that connect you to others.

Dependency – An exciting movie, novel, or performance can produce an adrenal rush. That heightened emotional state is thrilling and fun, but it can also become addictive. I remember a commercial featuring a zombie-like woman who begins to panic at the end of the last episode of a TV series. The spokesperson assured her she’d be OK if she subscribed to their service, they had lots of binge-worthy shows. The ad ends with her smiling as she sits back to zone out once again. Your natural curiosity and emotional growth can get stuck and that can lead to frustration and depression.

Spiritual Disconnection – Every religion and spiritual practice uses stories as a conduit to understand complicated and challenging ideas. Joseph Campbell, the American mythologist who did ground breaking work understanding the stories in folklore and comparative religion showed just how powerful the narrative format can be.  The opposite is also true.  Just as stories can connect us to higher truths and lead us to deeper meanings in life, other stories can desensitize us.  Junk stories can stifle our desire to stretch and push ourselves.  The easy story often fills us up making us reluctant to tackle challenging stuff.

Miscommunication & Lies – This category is closer to Toxic than Junk, but I decided to include it because dishonest stories often mascaraed as important or essential stuff even though it’s just junk.  Propaganda campaigns seek out stories which evokes emotional responses and appear to be true.  Once you ingest one of these “true” but dishonest tales it can get stuck in your mind as truth.  This form of junk is often delivered at political and sales events.  They also flourish all over the internet.

Do you have other ideas about the risks of junk stories? Leave a comment below.  If you’d like to explore the power of story, drop me a note.  I do one-on-one coaching, workshops, and performances.

Next Blog: How to Identify Junk Stories.