Today we’re going to cover how the stories we tell ourselves will determine the paths that we take.
What is the narrative?
The “narrative” is how we view the world. The world is objective and what we perceive is our subjective interpretation. We can’t change reality; however, by changing the stories we tell ourselves, we can influence how we respond to external events.
For example, a more positive outlook will help us create more positive mindsets and emotional responses. On the flip side, if we see everything as negative, then we will develop a negative view of the world and respond with hostility and immaturity.
Because of these reasons, it’s essential to develop a better, fuller outlook when analyzing the world and the actions of other people.
Narrative creation and the external
In the Book of Joy, Desmond Tutu provides a great example of narrative creation. He states that when someone cuts us off in traffic, we can think negatively about this person as well as belittle them in the process of expressing our anger.
However, he argues looking at the other person more fully helps us manage our emotions as well as express empathy. Instead of becoming angry, we can create a narrative that the driver may be late for an important meeting which decides the fate of his job and his family life.
While the cutting us off in traffic may have been rude, we’re suddenly more focused on the man’s struggle and less on his indiscretion.
This man may be a rude person and a terrible human being; however, we don’t know. The point is, we can tell a story that paints him in a more positive light and thus lightens our minds of the burden of anger, or we can view him negatively and thus become trapped in our boiling rage.
Another example – maybe someone is rude to us. We can take it personally and believe they dislike us and they’re the worst human being ever. Or, we can imagine that this individual is going through a rough patch and is struggling with emotion control.
With the latter narrative, I’m suddenly thinking of ways I can be more helpful to this person and possibly ask them what’s happening when they’re in a better mood. Furthermore, I should examine my own actions, reflect on my emotional control, and decide whether I am succeeding in my daily practices.
Emotional unease rarely helps. Through proper narrative creation, we can choose how our minds will react to trying moments.
Narrative creation and the internal
Additionally, through proper narrative creation, we can help create the future we want. For example, if you wake up every day believing that you’re worthless, then this story will decide your fate.
Once again, we are subjective creatures – whether or not you view yourself as worthless has no bearing on the reality that you’re not trivial. However, by telling yourself the story that you’re unimportant or undeserving of love, or whatever other nonsense, you will eventually push your actions in the direction of your narrative.
But what if we wake up every day believing that we can succeed? Suddenly we will have a more positive outlook on life and have a higher view of ourselves. This better view will help us develop an improved sense of pride, and we can utilize this sense of value to accomplish our goals. If we believe we can achieve greatness, we’re more likely to keep trying.
Be aware of reality
Always be mindful of facts. If someone is trying to mug you, for example, don’t waste time trying to empathize with their broken childhood or whatnot – defend yourself and escape.
Furthermore, never romanticize your current situations or limitations. For example, don’t tell yourself “I can be what I want to be.” Such a mindset sets us up for failure as we’re continuously disappointed that we can’t achieve what may be impossible. For example, if we want to be an all-star basketball player but we’re in our mid-thirties, having a narrative which states we can do whatever we like will lead to self-delusion and ultimately painful disappointment.
Therefore, I believe it’s crucial to utilize story generation but not in disregard of reality.
We should focus on crafting the narratives which enable us to be better individuals. When dealing with the external world, practice empathy and patience, so you don’t lose control of your emotions.
Proper narrative generation and emotional control are hard to master. I still struggle with frustration while in traffic or dealing with being a parent. However, practicing will help us become the individuals the world needs us to be.
- What narratives are you telling yourself about the world and your future in it? Does this story give you hope or despair?
- Why do you choose the narratives that you chose? For example, what do you think of certain people and why do you think these things?
- Practice positive narrative storytelling. When you’re inconvenienced, flood your mind with thoughts of the other person and their potential struggles. See if this helps your emotional control and mental state.
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.