Lee walked into the bathroom and sighed, “We have no clean towels – not even guest towels.” I shot back, “I’ve had a crazy week. You can do laundry too!” In a calm voice, he replied with “I know. I do it every week. What’s going on?”
It took about 10 seconds for me to realize that I was in storytelling mode. I had taken a simple comment and turned it into a whole narrative of how disorganized, forgetful, and unreliable I was as a partner. When I find myself here, I take a breath, apologize, and start my next sentence with – “The story I’m making up is…that you were blaming me for not having all the laundry done, and that I was letting you down.”
Lee replied, “No, I was going to do some yesterday, but I didn’t have time. I’m not blaming you. We just need clean towels.”
We’re human and humans are wonderful storytellers. Our minds don’t like ambiguity, so when we’re feeling chaotic, triggered or conflicted, our brain fills in the gaps with stories. Thing is… our stories are self-protective and not usually based on facts. Challenging those false assumptions pulls us out of story and back into what is really happening.
Explore your stories… And don’t worry if they sound uncivil or unreasonable. Self-preservation only considers survival, not logic.
Without blaming, shaming, or projecting your feelings onto those around you, allow yourself to fully experience what YOU are feeling and say it out loud.
“My stomach is in knots.
I want to run away.
I need cookies. Lots of them”
Once you name what you’re feeling, figure out what’s behind your feelings. GET CURIOUS.
Here are some questions to guide you.
What happened before you needed to self-soothe with cookies? Why are you being so hard on yourself and the ones you love?
Why are you obsessing over _______?
When I’m in the thick of my feelings or dealing with a difficult conflict, I use these questions to help me assess the situation.
1. What are my assumptions? What story am I telling?
2. What other people are involved and what do I need to know about them?
3. What role did I play? What was my part and what can I take responsibility for?
It’s a hard and brave thing to challenge your stories and narratives, and fully own your it. It starts here. With you accepting fully that you are a human, feeling, sensing being.