Updated: May 1, 2022
As humans, stories are one of the ways we share experiences and understanding. Stories help us learn, grow, expand our minds, and develop empathy for others by experiencing things from another’s point of view. Much of our entertainment, too, is based on stories- whether TV sitcoms, movies, the books we read, or even the news. But there’s a “flip side to every coin.” Just as a knife can be used to prepare a life-nourishing meal or to take a life, stories have their downside. We can become so attached to and identified with stories that we close our minds to any other possibility. We limit ourselves and others to those roles and personas portrayed in the stories, forgetting that we - and they - are so much more than that. When this happens, stories limit and divide us rather than expand and unite us. Wisdom requires wholeness, which includes being able to see things from all sides. When our perception is limited or stuck in preferential bias, we experience pain mentally or emotionally; we lose connection to our authentic self, and create division and separation between ourselves and others. Our bodies reflect this same principle: when we have physical pain, it is often because an area of our body has become stuck in one or more directional planes; we’ve lost our normal range of motion, our “ability to see things from all sides.”
“The truth is, when the mind is still and at peace, we have access to everything, simultaneously.” ~ Christine Clemmer
An old story (yes! One example of the value of stories!) tells of several blind men assigned the task of describing an elephant. Each man feels a different part of the elephant’s body, but only that one part, such as an ear, tusk, foot, etc. They describe the elephant based on their limited experience, and of course each description is completely true but entirely different from the others, and none of the descriptions can provide a complete understanding of the elephant. The men argue, each defending the rightness of his perception and accusing the others of being dishonest or wrong. The moral of the story is that humans tend to claim absolute truth based on their limited, subjective experience, and fail to see the whole picture. In any experience, there's always more to the story than what is apparent. Every so-called "reality" involves so many threads of things overlapping and interwoven with one another. No story can possibly be complete. Being aware of this, we can appreciate each perspective while staying open to the fact that we don't know all that we think we do. We can recognize that our limited viewpoints are the source of our inner turmoil, and seek to open our minds and hearts. We can become more comfortable with not knowing it all. We can open our minds to hearing other points of view, and take down the barriers of prejudice and division. Ultimately, we can recognize what we all have in common- despite our different backgrounds, lifestyles, cultures, colors, etc. we can we begin to see the underlying unity. We can recognize each person we meet is "just like me" in some way..."just like me" that person wants to be loved and feel safe..."just like me" that person may be facing challenges, confusion, or loss..."just like me" that person is doing the best they can at this time. That knowing has the capacity to soften our hearts with compassion for ourselves and others. May we all enjoy the freedom of an open mind. :-) Self Care Suggestion: Recognize stories as stories, and keep some perspective. Like watching a movie, you can enjoy the story and take from it anything that might be of constructive value, but don’t get lost in identifying with it. Try these tips from Brene Brown and Byron Katie: (Brene Brown:) When you recognize an internal story is causing you pain or making you contract into ego identification, say “The story I’m telling myself is......” (fill in the blank with whatever the current belief/assumption/projection is). This helps to make some space around it, loosens its solid identity, and acknowledges that this is, indeed, a story and therefore a limited perception that may be entirely inaccurate, opening your mind to other possibilities and a fuller perception of the situation. (Byron Katie:) 4 key questions: 1. Is it true? 2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? 3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? 4. Who would you be without that thought?