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What Are You Telling Yourself?

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When you look at this picture, what are your immediate thoughts? Does a “story” come to mind immediately to explain it?”


Creative Commons License photo credit: paalia

If so, then you are in good company. Probably everyone you know does the same thing. As humans, we are story makers. We see a person or situation and we immediately create a story about what we see. That's because the human mind is not satisfied unless it has an explanation of things we encounter in life.

I think the need to know may be intrinsically linked with our need for safety. In other words, we feel safer when we think we understand something; even if it's an explanation that causes great distress. We prefer our own made up and painful story about reality over a state of ‘not knowing.'

We just need to feel like we know. Therefore we explain everything to ourselves in an ongoing mental dialog with ourselves. But the thing is – sometimes (often, for many of us) our mental chats with ourselves, so chock-full of unquestioned “explanations” about what we see, are simply not true!

But once we have an explanation, we just assume that it's true. We believe these stories, boy, do we ever BELIEVE them! We believe our stories so completely sometimes that we hang on to them with our teeth bared, ready to bite anyone who disagrees!

Let's take the picture above as a hypothetical, but nonetheless, commonplace sort of example:

I asked Susanna what her impressions of this picture were. She expressed immediate concern for the young boy in the photo who was “obviously (in her mind) being forced to work.” She launched into an animated diatribe about child slave labor and how unjust it is for business owners to take such unfair advantage of children in poverty situations. She expressed bitterness towards those who would mistreat such “poor, underprivileged, children.”

Doreen's impressions were quite opposite; looking at the same picture brought her a reminiscent smile. She said the young boy's facial expression brought back childhood memories for her of hanging out in her grandfather's store on days she would have preferred to be outside playing. She went on to say how lucky she felt to have been a part of a family who worked in a business together. “It gave me a sense of importance and meaning to know that my family depended on me to do my part.”

Jillian had yet another take on the photo. She saw the children as waiting patiently for their parents to finish their day. She felt a little miffed at the parents for not having their children “home doing their schoolwork,” and at the same time, impressed with how patient “children from other cultures are as compared to our own.”

The point is – we all have a different story about what we see and experience. This is simply the way we are. We see and experience something and we create a story about it. Consciousness comes from observing what we see and the stories that arise about those things without getting too attached to our particular explanations about them. Because who knows, our story just might not be true!

Blessings, Lynne

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