We can’t help but live in stories.
But you may not find the story you’re living (the one that opens or closes possibilities for you) in your thoughts. In fact, the narrative you’ve taken up in your life may hardly be visible to you by looking there at all.
Mostly, the stories we’re inhabiting that shape us so much are in the background. Or, put another way, they’re often so close to us we can’t see them. See this previous post, this one, and this one, for an idea of what I mean.
So, where to look?
You could start off by watching your actions closely for a while: who you speak to and who you avoid, and what you actually say; how you get your needs met; how you ask for things; the kinds of places you go; what you do impulsively or repeatedly; what you pay attention to and what not. So often what we’re doing is not what we think we’re doing, and our familiar explanations of ourselves miss so much.
And you could watch what happens in your body: when you tighten up, and when you relax; the situations in which you hold your breath more than usual; when you collapse – even just a little – and when you are able to support yourself with more strength; when you armour yourself so you won’t have to feel something; when strong emotions – love, disgust, rage, hope, resentment, gratitude, fear – arise.
What kind of story accounts for what you find?
Sometimes a compassionate, skilled observer who’s willing to share their impressions can help: a friend, a family member, a colleague, or a coach. They may be able to find words to express what’s harder for you to see about the narrative from which you’re living, leading, and acting.
Seeing our stories for the first time can be enormously liberating. Because then you can find out that you are not the story itself. You’re way bigger than that. And you can allow yourself to have your story rather than being had by it.
And this, at last, opens up the possibility that there are other stories you could live – stories with much more space in them, and way more possibility.