Unscrambling stories – reality or fiction

Meeting Brené Brown (author of, among others, Rising Strong, Daring Greatly and, most recently, Dare to Lead) has been on my Bucket Wheel® ever since I read her very first book, The Gifts of Imperfection.

Her concept of Shitty First Drafts resonated with me, and I realised once again how powerful stories can be and how often we create fictitious stories in our heads that are removed from the reality of the situation.

How we remember things may not be an actual account of what really happened, but rather how we perceive it happening. As a Certified Financial Planner® I see this all too often, especially in discussions with clients around our relationship with money. We become stressed and anxious thinking about what may happen, and these thoughts are not based on reality.

I recognise how many times I desperately wanted to walk away from a situation, too fearful to tread where it may hurt or cause discomfort. Brené’s work has helped me in many difficult situations. She explains that we fabricate stories in our own minds to give us a way out, a convenient excuse to avoid uncomfortable conversations or hard decisions.

Have you ever been in a situation where you interpreted someone’s response with an entire story of your own making, detailing exactly what they meant as they shrugged or perhaps ignored you? And we don’t stop with just a broad story outline. We start embellishing the story with a beginning, a middle and an end, filled with details on why it happened, how it happened and what the long terms consequences will be. You end up feeling so fearful and worried that it physically starts impacting your health.

Brené Brown calls these stories “shitty first drafts;” our first response to a situation that is based on our beliefs or memories, whether real, remembered or fabricated.  We all have a tendency to fabricate imaginary experiences, which is an honest attempt of the brain to protect us from the threat of uncomfortable emotions. Our brain loves stories – it’s how we make sense of things – and how we protect ourselves. They may not be accurate, but they feel familiar. And we believe them! One of the stories I hear most often is the story of “not being good enough.”

Brené encourages us to get curious about the stories we tell ourselves. Here are some tips to help you unscramble your story:

  1. Stop and breathe, calm down your emotional response.
  2. Think about the story that is causing you distress. In all probability you are fabricating the wrong story.
  3. Write down your Shitty First Draft: uncensored and unedited.
  4. Challenge your story by looking for the emotion that your story is based on, most often shame, guilt or fear.
  5. Step outside your story and deconstruct the patterns.
  6.  Now rewrite the ending of your story, one that serves you and your health. This version should be a more accurate and less emotional account, based on what you know to be true.

This is an honest and reflective exercise, but if done with courage, you will be able to re-write you stories with new endings, instead of repeating old habits and behaviours.

Wishing you many healthy stories!

Best wishes,

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