I have a confession. I’m a storyteller. I tell stories. And, here’s an interesting fact, so do you! In this blog I am going to illustrate to you why and how we’re all born story tellers and how being aware of our stories can change our lives.
Stories are crucial to our evolution. Stories are what make us human, not in a metaphorical sense but in a literal sense. Our brains are hardwired to create stories and to respond to stories.
Hers is an example. A cat sits on the sidewalk and a bird lands close by. The cat goes into stalk mode and pounces. He misses the bird. What does the cat do next? He shakes himself, walks off and curls up for a nap. What he doesn’t do is create a story about what happened.
Now imagine this. A human sits on the sidewalk with his bird catching net. A bird lands nearby and the human swings but misses the bird. What might the human do next? We might hear this – “I’m such a bad hunter”, “I shouldn’t have tried to catch that bird, I knew I couldn’t do it”, “I hope nobody was watching me, they’ll think I’m a total loser”, “Maybe I should take up basket weaving, I’ll probably be better at that.” The human makes up a story about what happened.
Why do we make stories up? We do it to makes sense of the tremendous amount of information coming at us continually. We do it to survive. Our brain is faced with a problem of what to do with all the information coming at us and so the solution is found, storytelling.
As Antonia Damasio says in his book, “Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain”storytelling is something our brains do, naturally an implicitly….It should be no surprise that it pervades the entire fabric of human societies and cultures.”
We think in story. We are constantly seeking meaning. We are meaning makers.
As Lisa Cron says in her wonderful book, “Wired for Story”, “we are always looking for the why beneath what’s happening on the surface.” We like to make sense of things and we certainly don’t like being confused. So, when something happens in our lives, we don’t just look at what happened – we create a story about what happened. Here is an example:
I was away from work and while I was away my boss
assigned a project that I wanted to someone else in the office.
My Story about What Happened
My boss knew I wanted that project. He purposefully and maliciously waited until I was away so he could give the project to someone else, his favourite. He wanted to humiliate me so I would quit my job.
After we create our story(meaning), we then operate out of that story as if it were true. The repeating of our stories to ourselves and others limits our vision of what is possible. We narrow our scope of possibility. The more we repeat these stories, the more linked the neural pathways become in our brain. It’s like we are building a path and the more we use it – it becomes a “super highway.”
The good news in all this is that we can change our stories and change our brains. Our brains are very malleable and we have the ability to rewire and create new neural pathways and new stories to change the quality of our lives.
When we change our perception – our stories – we can change our reality.
How you ask??
We need to utilize our “thinking” brains – our pre-frontal cortex. The frontal lobe is the conductor in front of the orchestra. We have the free will to place our attention where we want. It requires clear intent.
As Joe Dispenza, D.C. says in “Evolve Your Brain”, “when we use this part of our brain to its capacity, our behaviour matches our purpose, and our actions match our intent – our mind and body are one.”
Some things to consider that will help us write the story we want for ourselves:
1/ Become self-aware. This requires turning down the noise of our lives and becoming observant to our stories. Complaints are good indicators of the stories we are telling ourselves.
2/ Make the commitment to change the story. Don’t let discomfort be a deterrent to change.
3/ Use mental rehearsal to see yourself with the story you want to create. Do it often. Mental rehearsal builds new neural pathways.
4/ Fall in love with the idea of a new possibility – a new story – and tell it often. Tell others and enroll them in your story.
Yes, I’m a storyteller. Having this knowledge helps me write the stories that can enhance my life and can make dealing with conflict easier and more productive. Hopefully, it can do that for you too.