Have you ever thought about your “stories” – those snippets of thoughts that you tell yourself to appease, sooth or distract? What do you do when you discover that your stories are just…wrong?
See if you can relate to what happened to me the other day.
My power to create stories slammed in my face on my way to work one morning. As I pulled into the crowded parking lot, another car suddenly appeared immediately behind me. I could not see her front bumper because she was following so close. There was no room for her to pass me, so she just continued to be locked to my rear bumper (we could have danced the tango!) She was obviously in a hurry and didn’t like my slower speed. I instantly felt annoyance rise up in my body but intentionally decided to just make it to my parking space.
As I was walking to the building, the other driver walked a parallel path. It was drizzling and she had an umbrella tilted (her face was covered). I did not know who it was and I almost said something to her about driving too close, but decided that it wasn’t worth it. We both continued into the building through different doors.
The story in my head was that this person was rude and driving recklessly in a crowded parking lot (she really was on my bumper). While I clung to the feeling of superiority for controlling my words, I still felt annoyed for being treated that way. I walked into the building toward the office, turned the corner and discovered the identity of the mysterious driver.
It was the receptionist from our firm!
My first thought was, “Thank goodness I didn’t say anything!” After we said our hellos, I went to my office and realized that there was a deeper lesson than the happy avoidance of a social faux pas.
I Was the Creator of My Story
My “story” about the other driver made me the victim! SHE was doing something to ME. And I felt threatened, then annoyed, then wanted to project those feelings on her by words or actions. Because my “story” cast me as the victim, I felt very righteous in wanting to say something to the perpetrator.
Can you see how this process flows from the source? My words or actions were the direct result of my thoughts and the story I created about the situation. I already had a prepackaged story that I immediately turned to, because I had encountered that same situation before.
I was the creator of the victim story. That means I can create a totally different story to use when I encounter that same situation again! I can control my reaction to an irritating situation by deliberately moving from a victim mindset to one of acceptance and non-judgment.
The power to change rests in me, no one else.
What if I told myself a different story about the parking lot incident, based on a clearer understanding of how my thoughts (and stories) filter my reality? Here is another way I could have reacted:
When I first notice her tail gating me, I still feel a flash of irritation. But I do not want to travel down that road, because I know that it leads to upset and anger. I am in a great mood and choose not to allow an external event to disrupt it. I mindfully step into the space between feeling irritated and doing something I might regret later. A deep, cleansing breath brings me back to the present moment and away from the irritation (and the story behind it). I deliberately and intentionally say to myself, “It’s OK for her to be in a hurry.” Then, I send her a silent message of peace and love. I don’t think about her again. No irritation enters my body, I do not tense up and I arrive at my destination happy and noticing other things. The incident does not continue to play out in my mind and I am free to move on through my day. Joyfully.
Isn’t that a better way to live?
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