“You don’t have to believe your story,” she told me. This is session three and I have come nose to nose with my self-limitations, the ones built from beliefs that started life either as hand-me-downs or stories told in my own head to explain How Things Are.
So here’s a proposal for you: human beings are defined by story. Think about it – is there any other living thing on this planet with the capacity to tell stories? Anything is possible, but the answer must be, as far as we are aware, no.
We try to draw a line between truth and fiction, but how can we? A report in a newspaper of happened events is narrated by an individual whose telling is inevitably a process informed by their perceptions and their interpretations of those perceptions. The meaning we give to events is the result of a learning process: we learn from our families of origin, from our culture or subculture, from our history and yes, from stories. This process is inevitably a form of recycling – yes, we may contribute our own unique insights, but the source material has a lineage, just as each of us exists in the context of a wider community.
Even when we describe observed events, we are simultaneously creating and perpetuating a story. We might like to think we are ‘telling it like it is’ but really we are both telling it like we perceive it to be and telling it like it has always been, because every description is rife with interpretation and every interpretation carries the infection of a collective understanding of what constitutes ‘truth.’ A bigger story has always already been told. It is our collective agreement with this story that enables society to exist. But don’t confuse it with the truth.
Because, beyond what we can collectively agree on, truth is always personal. Richard Bandler and John Grinder, the founders of NLP, tell us that “The map is not the territory,” meaning that each of us an internal representation of reality that is not reality itself. The presupposition here is that there is a territory that is separate from the many maps. And, without wishing to get all quantum on you, I am not at all sure that this is so. I think perhaps story is all there is.
Christine Comaford said, “Everything’s an illusion, so pick one that’s empowering.” And so I ask you, dear reader: that story you are telling yourself – is it empowering? Or is it part of a self-limiting belief?
If you are ready to be free from self-limitation but need a little help, drop me a line.