The stories we tell ourselves.

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Flooded with helplessness.

A friend of mine recently returned home from vacation to find his newly constructed house flooded.

The feelings of helplessness that followed were magnified by the story he was telling himself on repeat. That he was an idiot. Naive. A loser. Stupid for not knowing better.

 Loss of control.

This was something completely beyond his control. Yet there he was battling Mother Nature head on.

Making himself entirely responsible for the deluge of rain. All powerful. Yet completely powerless. Imprisoned by his thoughts alone.

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He and his wife had only lived in their new home for 18 months. A dream house built for retirement.

Every aspect of the design painstakingly conceived. Which only amplified his despair.

Infinite Rumination.

But in that moment, the story in his mind was filled with self-accusation and punishment. Second guessing on repeat.

The loop in his head based on the assumption that he was all-mighty. At the epicentre of the universe. Fully in charge of Mother Nature and her actions.

This is what happens when we lose control of external circumstances. We attempt to control it internally.

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Overcome by emotion.

Logically, he knew that it was not the end of the world. That there were far worse things that could have happened and have happened in his life.

But in times of panic, our emotional brain (the amygdala) hijacks our thinking brain and we can no longer think rationally.

And that’s ok. Because in order to heal, we must first bear witness to our pain. Only then can we move on and beyond.

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Breathing space.

It has been four days since the flood and thank goodness the overwhelming feelings of helplessness have subsided for my friend.

Time heals. And so does a wife’s love. The support of neighbours. And a mom’s embrace.

It happened. He is strengthened. He will thrive.

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Change the story.

Now when he passes the construction zone in his house, instead of chastising himself, he thinks of how lucky he is to have a basement renovation just 18 months after moving in. Same basement. Different narrative.

This story makes him smile. 

55 thoughts on “The stories we tell ourselves.

  1. Working with those who have stumbled inside the justice system, much can be gained with your insight. So many justice-involved believe themselves to be powerless/invisible and unable to escape the confines of a world unwilling to accept unintentional mistakes do happen.

    If you allow, would like to introduce some of your work in our programs designed to empower those who have lost hope or belief in themselves. 2ndChanceUniversity.org is a nonprofit dedicated to the broken and invisible, I look forward to sharing your words as our journey progresses.

    “Don’t believe everything you think” hits the incarcerated in ways only those on the inside could fully understand.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Our stories are so powerful. They can truly inspire us or break us down. I love knowing we can always change our story. It’s all in our perspective. I guess one example is the old saying, “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” 💖🌈 have a wonderful day! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on SirPeterJames.com and commented:
    What often appear to be ‘curved balls’ thrown at us during our lifetime are in fact miracle opportunities. Sometimes they are even timeous warnings of dangers on the journey ahead.
    In my life they have, without exception, always been for my expressed benefit.
    sirpeterjamesdotcom

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When I started my blog site a year ago, you were one of the first people I chose to follow. That was a good choice on my part.
    In my books, Dr Andrea, you stand for so many excellent qualities, that I aspire to.
    Your articles are all singularly inspiring and encouraging. They are packaged in total sincerity and are published consistently, without leaving me feeling like i’m drowning in a sea of information overload.
    I am re-blogging this article so that my followers can benefit, just as I have done, from your wisdom and care.
    Congratulations too, on your Ted Ex presentation – it was the first time I have seen you in ‘video format’. The speech was excellent, delivered with love and concern for your listeners.
    I think that your students are mightily privileged to have a tremendous lecturer such as you.
    Lastly, if I may be so bold as to offer you encouragement; There are many dynamic speech makers, who deliver without wisdom and knowledge. Speech making is a skill that can be learned over a short time period; What cannot be learned over a short time period, is your twenty year research, accumulated wisdom and knowledge, that you share from a base of of high E.Q. and true passion – Well done Dr. Andrea!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I woke up this morning with your beautiful words.

      Thank you so much for your encouragement! Bloggers like you Peter, are the best part of the process. Something that I had no idea about when I first started writing. I thought it would be 99% about the posts, and 1% about the bloggers. And it is the other way around!

      Thanks also for watching my TEDx talk and for your feedback. It was a long, intensive process, but so worth it when I find my message received wholeheartedly.

      Have an amazing Saturday!
      You sure made mine. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting you mentioning the repeat. I have always been so hard on mySELF. Oh, I accidentally hit the all caps. Idiot that I am. Only kidding.

    I find when I repeat some stories I am just punishing myself all over again and sometimes relive the emotions as well. Now, I triy to refrain from the unpleasant stories.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I am not surprised by this. You most likely set impossible standards for yourself. Comparing everything you do to this “ideal” that rarely, exists in the real world. A characteristic of many of my students.

      You will hear me speak of it in my TEDx talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czXG8odb7pY About how important it is to B R E A T H E through it. Step back. And distract yourself, just long enough, to calm your irrational brain down.

      You are perfect just the way you are. I have read your posts. Your writing shines.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. A fantastic post and a great reminder of accepting pain and suffering and negative emotions/events, then moving forward to create a new narrative and a fresh perspective on them! Wishing your friend the very best with his property, too 🙂
    Caz x

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I really liked this post! I’ve been trying to tell myself lately that while my family issues might not be 100% within my control, I can still do my best to change it and this post perfectly illustrates why I should try harder and strengthen myself. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I love the idea of flipping the script. I tend to get overwhelmed and frustrated easily. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in the summer of 2015. But, my husband is a wonderful pillar of support, and is an expert in helping me shift my thinking. Instead of complaining about something, what are you going to do about it? How do you make this positive? And so on. He’s amazing!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Flipping the script.”

      Such a great example of this concept. I used it with students, exactly as your husband says it. Thank you for sharing Laura Beth. I honour your Generalized Anxiety Disorder and the incredible resourcefulness you have in coping with it.

      Stay positive! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. He was definitely in shock. For sure. And just as you said about your sister, he moved through it, and is imagining an even better recreation centre. And that keeps him smiling! Just like your sister’s fabulous new kitchen. That makes it all worthwhile. Thanks for sharing Brigid! I always love hearing from you.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. I really like the idea of changing the story. I struggle a lot with emotions and often find myself not in control. I see it as a learning process to find ways to cope and try beat my brain ahead of time. I also like the simple line “It happened.” It’s something I tell myself now to try shift perspective of it to the past and work towards a solution instead of letting overwhelming emotions make it feel like I’m reliving a situation. Great post as always!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Your friends story reminds me of something that happened to me last week. After having a lovely afternoon out we came back to find that the dog had torn out and eaten the side of our carpet that we only had put in six months ago.

    Apart from my feeling that I could kill the dog, I felt pretty hopeless in the situation telling myself I couldn’t have anything nice and annoyed with myself for throwing away the carpet remnants because they were taking up space.

    24 hours later I was thinking logically, I didn’t want to kill the dog and we could make the hallway look nicer than it was by getting rug to cover up the teeth marks.

    Great post 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. One of the best stories I’ve heard in a long time. So raw and true. Fear and stress bring out our animal instincts. And then eventually.. with time, our thinking mind reappears. Thank you for sharing! You words add so much to my post.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Great story. We have to deal with whatever comes our way. Sometimes our default position to blame ourself unfairly for the event -what did we do. But sometimes we did nothing. Life is a big learning curve we just have to learn, then we can live more peacefully. Great story and post.

    Liked by 2 people

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