The stories we tell..

The stories we tell..

For many people, death is preferable to public speaking. Public speaker, Robin Banks tells the story of a woman he met who when she heard what he does for a living, proclaimed that she would rather die than have to do what he does. She told him how when she was little and had to give her first formal speech in class, she dried – and everyone laughed at her. The humiliation she felt haunts her still. Now Robin, as a little boy, also got publically laughed at. On stage as King Herod in a school play, clunky little guy that he was, he accidentally knocked off his crown, which then bounced and rolled around at his feet. Immersed in his role, he grabbed his “sword”, swung it towards a soldier, and commanded with great authority, “Hey soldier! Pick up my crown!!!” The audience collapsed in mirth. The delight he felt inspired a career. Granted, Robin is temperamentally an extrovert. But I started wondering, how do our interpretations of events affect our feelings, and consequently our choices in life? The little girl’s thoughts no doubt went something along the lines of, “I look so stupid. I’m sure everybody thinks I’m an idiot..” and she felt awful. Robin’s thoughts on the other hand (and bare in mind he’d been very clumsy) probably went something like, “Wow! They love me!” and he felt great. Think back to an incident in your life that challenged you. See if you can sift out just the dry facts – the objective events – from the subjective meaning you have given them. Now interrogate your beliefs about them. How much of what you have grown to believe about the events is emphatically true? And how much is actually speculation? If some of your beliefs turn out to be merely speculation, could there possibly be a different, equally valid explanation, interpretation or story that may apply? How would this alternative story affect how you feel about the incident? And then I want to invite you to take this further.. Tell your story in two different ways. In your first telling of it, cast yourself as The Victim who suffered. In the second, cast yourself as The Hero, who overcame. What do you notice now about your initial interpretation of events? How have your feelings changed? The stories we tell ourselves are powerful. If we can rewrite the ones that don’t serve us, our emotional responses to them will shift, so will our negative belief systems, and along with that our confidence and self-image will grow. Strange how perspective changes...

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Betrayal and Forgiveness

Betrayal and Forgiveness

The other day, I met a man in his sixties, who left his wife and family over twenty years ago when he inadvertently fell in love with another woman. What made it even more of a betrayal for his ex-wife was that the new couple also decided to have a child together. He has been a devoted father to all of his children, who love him dearly – but he crushed his wife when he left her. She never remarried. She never took lovers. In fact, she generalized her anger to include all men. She won’t employ a male workman if a woman can do the job. And she all but cut off all contact with her ex-husband. To quote William Congreve from The Mourning Bride, Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned. A year ago, this slim, fit woman who was largely vegetarian, suffered a massive heart attack which was so severe that to save her life she had to have a heart transplant. One could say she almost died of a broken heart. Now there is no denying that this man deceived his wife and caused her great suffering 20 years ago. But I would suggest that most people would have moved on from such a devastating event after such a long time. They would have processed their pain. By holding onto rage, this woman has given her power for happiness away to all men, and in particular to her ex-husband, and in so doing has lived a life of suffering that could only be described as much less than its rich potential. The notion of forgiveness is not just some laudable spiritual esoteric notion. It really is a recipe for reclaiming our power to live our own best life, and not giving it away to others. It is in fact a decision that each of us has the power to make. As the Buddha said, Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets...

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