We make decisions about whether to do something or not based on what we expect, and what we expect is based on our past experiences of how we think that will go for us.
For example would you spend your last dollar on a lottery ticket if you had never won the lottery, nor even known anyone who has? Probably not.
Similarly, if my experience is that in groups of people I get rejected and excluded, that is what I will expect when faced with a group of people. It makes sense. Our past experiences help us understand the world we live in and so we can feel safe. We like to think we can predict how things will go and make decisions accordingly.
Let’s do an experiment…answer the following questions without overthinking it:
- What is the story line for a romantic comedy?
- What about a horror movie?
- How about a drama?
- Or an Under-dog story?
We all have an idea about the types of story lines that go with each of these “types” of movies.
We also have movies or stories in our heads- about ourselves and how we expect things will go for us, and these in turn change our actions in meaningful ways every single day. They become our survival maps.
Check out the list below and see how many of the common stories you have?
- I’m not good enough
- I’m fat
- I’m ugly
- I’m stupid
- I can’t
- It’s not fair
- I don’t have time
- It won’t make a difference anyway
- I’ll do it later
- I’m too busy
- It doesn’t matter
- I’m going to fail
- People will judge/ reject me
- I don’t know what I want
- I’m confused
- Just this time won’t hurt
- I’ll change tomorrow/ next time
- I suck at …work, parenting, relationships, life etc
- I’m stuck
- It won’t get better
- I’m alone/ lonely
- They will get mad at me
- I don’t matter
- They matter – I need to be there for them
- I’ll get hurt/ it’s dangerous
- No one likes me/ what was I thinking!
So how many did you have? It took me about 2 min to come up with those because they are the bread and butter of what I hear for all people across all ages, genders, social economic standing and education. They are the stories that direct our expectations about what will happen for us in our lives.
We wouldn’t expect a movie labelled as a Romantic Comedy to go tragically wrong, nor would we expect a horror movie to have a whimsical plot and a happy ending. In fact, we would be looking for the opposite to happen as we watched. Our ideas about how stories go direct our attention and our lives.
So what happens if we have had a bunch of poor and unhealthy past experiences? If our expectation is to fail, be rejected, feel unsafe and that we need to people please and make our own needs not matter? It sounds like we are doomed to keep making decisions from that place, right? Wrong!
Here is how it works,
- All change starts with AWARENESS– if we don’t know what our stories are we can’t do anything differently . If you want some help with this, do the Facing The Past Worksheet here or click through to it on our free worksheets page, under resources.
- We can CONSCIOUSLY CHANGE THE STORIES– this takes effort on out part by choosing to LOOK FOR times that we felt we did matter, times we succeeded, or were included in social situations. It is helpful to have these written or drawn somewhere so we can reference them when we are in an old stories mindset, because when we are flipped to old brain, they will be hard to remember otherwise.
3. NAME THE STORY– we automatically fuse/ believe whatever we are thinking and feeling unless we give the brain specific cues not to. Think of something that really worries you, when you think of it or body has an almost immediate reaction, even though nothing has actually changed from a moment ago. By naming the story (i.e.”There is that not good enough story, there is the I’m going to fail story, the I’m a bad person story, the I’m a burden story” etc), we actually cue our brain to recognize it is a story, like watching a movie. That little bit of distance allows us to not get hooked into believing it so much, so even if it shows up, we can still consciously make the choice that is in line with out values, what is important to us and who we want to be in the face of a particular situation.
So here is the take home message…
Change your story and you change your future!
Ready? Set? Go!!!