My feet were tired, I was hungry, and cold. Winter seems to have come early and my winter coats are still in storage. I just wanted to sit. As I got on the subway, I spotted an empty seat.
Just as I made my way there, another woman beat me to it. It was the latest in a string of episodes over the day in which I couldn’t seem to catch a break.
What’s the Story You Tell?
Have you ever have one of those days (or months) where it feels like everyone is in your way? Wherever you go, whatever you’re trying to do, it seems like someone is putting up road blocks?
These are the stories we tell.
That girl took my seat on the subway. That man blocked my view. My colleague screwed me over. My landlord is making my life miserable. She took my spot.
Truth: Nobody “took” “my” seat on the subway. I had no more claim to that seat than the woman who sat there.
Nobody is setting out to annoy me or make my life miserable.
People are just living their lives.
What If It’s Not About You?
I took a deep breath and reminded myself that none of this is happening to me.
The positive psychology spin is that things don’t happen to you; they happen for you.
But it’s not necessarily that these things are happening for me, either.
Here’s a thought:
What if it’s just happening?
Not to me. Not for me. Not even related to me.
It’s not about me at all.
It’s happening simultaneous with and concurrent to my experience.
But it’s not part of my experience unless I choose to make it such. I choose to make it part of my experience the moment I create a narrative that links me with the other people.
This is a hard truth that most people don’t want to face.
How We Separate
When we are so wrapped up in our own needs, we can’t see that. When we are in fight-or-flight, just trying to survive, we see only people who are in our way or people who are taking things from us.
When we are wrapped in fear — in the fight or flight mode — we separate from ourselves and others. We lose our capacity for empathy. In this state we see everyone else as the “unreal other” — not as human, but as things that stand between us and what we want or where we want to go.
I notice that the more I feel “stress” about the things that I perceive I lack, or that I need to do and haven’t yet done, the more I allow those fears — of failing, not getting “it” done, not meeting expectations, not measuring up, not having what I need — to infiltrate my experience, the more I separate from what’s real and true.
The Ego Keeps Us Small
These stories we tell aren’t empowering. They put us in the victim position. That’s the paradox of the ego: it is so needy that it wants to be the center of the story, even if the story is painting us as a victim.
Changing Your Story
Here’s the good news: you get to decide the story you tell.
What if these things that have you so worked up are not happening to you or for you? What if they are just happening?
How would that change the story you tell about your experience?
Give this one some thought and please share your response in the comments!