We are many-storied creatures. Every morning, we wake up and tell ourselves into our story. When you study a life, as I have many times as a therapist, you realize that how we tell ourselves into our story generally determines how things will go for us. As American Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield says, “We can tell stories that lead us to greater suffering and desperation, blame and fear, or we can use stories to open the heart of compassion. We can use stories to support the generous impulse that’s there in us. We can use stories to connect us to one another.” The problem is that much of our personal story is unconscious to us, a jumble of scripts generated by the imprints of our experiences, often running and ruling us from underneath.
The places where we run into trouble and suffer in life are the places where our stories have gone awry, where things have gone badly or where we have chosen inappropriate responses or just avoided the powerful emotions and effects attending such events. Some of our most affecting experiences have occurred when we were too young, too immature or too distracted to comprehend the full import of what was happening. So we are left with distortions in our story about how life actually works, and significantly, we still may carry painfully charged emotions that were not fully experienced. These incomplete elements of our story limit our range of choices and behavior. The still emotionally-charged memories and associated fantasies from different periods of our lives can inhibit us and become barriers to the life we want to or were meant to live.
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