There is what happens to you and then there are the stories you tell yourself about what happens to you. You have a natural tendency to want to assign meaning to the events in your life. How you define what happens to you can often be even more important than what actually happens.
The stories or meanings you assign to life's events are what determine your future actions and even how you see yourself. They create the lens through which you see your world. You create these stories for yourself and even for other people when they share their life experiences with you.
Seeing the added story for what it is
The example I use in the class is the conversation I had with a friend years and years back now.
Me: I completely messed up my presentation today.
Friend: Don't feel bad about yourself. It happens.
Me: I didn't say I felt bad about myself. I just said I messed up the presentation.
Friend: You did say you felt bad about yourself. Of course, you do. You messed up.
Me: No. Again. I feel just fine about myself. I'm just saying I messed up my presentation today.
The friend never did see the added story. The event was me messing up my presentation. His added story was that it meant I felt bad about myself. I didn't have that added story. I just had an event without any added meaning.
For another example, here is a conversation I've heard again and again when working with people:
Man: Well, no second date for me. It's been two weeks and she's hasn't returned my calls.
Woman: That's a shame. You seemed to really like her.
Man: I know. I just really need to work out more. I know it's because I'm too heavy.
Woman: I don't think that's the least bit true.
Could the rejection the man is experiencing really be because he's too heavy? Maybe. Could it be for 1000 other reasons that we don't know because his rejector isn't here to ask? Yes, yes, and yes again. The event is an honest one. He is being rejected. The added story is that it's because he's too heavy.
Adding this into your practice
Sometimes the stories we add can be helpful and sometimes they can be destructive. How you know the difference is their effect on your life. In the second example above, instead of saying it's because he is too chubby, the man could have come back with, "I know. I just really liked her. It's a shame she clearly doesn't think we're compatible." This is still an added story but it's a much healthier one.
There are ways to work with and examine the stories you add on top of what happens. Next week, we will come back and talk about how to really begin to dig in and do this. For now, though, it's enough to just see the times you add the story and to make a note of what it is.
Back in Week 2, you began a daily review before bedtime. This examination of looking for the added story should be added into this routine. As you go over the events of your day, be aware of any added stories you give on top of the events. For now, hold them in non-judgment. It's just enough to begin to see them.
Learn to see the difference between the event and the meaning you assign.
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