Telling Stories

Recently a six year old cut her bangs. They were so short and uneven that it was obvious that she had done it herself. When asked she said that here great grandmother had cut them but she probably would not remember doing it.

For the parents this was one of those hard times. They know that they had to correct her for not telling the truth. At the same time they had to suppress their laughter and admire her both her imagination and the logic.

We all tell stories. Most are not harmful. Some are beneficial. The worst stories are the destructive rumors and stereotypes. It is hard to see some of these because they are so ingrained in our cultures.

Some of these stories are invented because people did not have the science or history to explain situations. Many have been invented because of unfounded fears or insecurity.

It is interesting to watch conflicts around the world and hear what is being said within the cultures. When one group wins over another, the winners claim that the divine was on their side. The looser declares that the devil was on the other side. When the tables turn again, the new winner declares that the divine has heard their pleads and returned and the new looser declares that having lost the first time the other side sold out to the devil.

Unlike the child, there is nothing cute about these stories. Were the child tried to avoid punishment and knew the great-grandmother would not be punished these types of stories are meant to foster hatred.

If you listened to the fears and complaints of the Republicans at the beginning of the year it gives a real insight into one of the outcomes of this type of misunderstanding. Their main fear was now that the Democrats had control that the Democrats would not listen to the Republicans as the Republicans had not listened to the Democrats. We are not picking on either party, just pointing out this lack of empathy breeds fear.

Some stories are not created out of ignorance. Some destructive stories are created as weapons. Hitler created stories and demonized Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals to unify the country. He them demonized the intellectuals so that they would not shine a light on the fiction of his stories.

This is not a technique isolated to mass murders. Watch when there is a whistle, someone who finds that they can not live with a lie in the organization that they belong to. The first thing that the organization does is demonize the whistle blower. Often they generate stories that are complete fabrications.

We see this in advertising. Companies spend money to discredit another companies products or research that shows that their product is a fake. Look at the millions spent by the tobacco industry in an attempt to discredit all the research on the harm that smoking caused.

Even when it is shown that the stories are fantasy, enough people have heard the stories that they have become part of the culture. There is the old story about a man who, in anger, told a story about someone in their village. As the story spread and the harm it was doing became obvious, the man who started the rumor repented and went to the learned man who was the object of the rumor. The learned man said he would forgive the rumor monger if he did two things. First he told the man to go home, take a feather pillow, go outside into the wind, rip open the pillow, shake out all of the feathers and then return for the second step. When he returned the learned man told him to go back and collect all of the feathers and put them back in the pillow.

Once a destructive story is let free, like the feather, it blows everywhere. Remnants, like the little pin feathers, hide in peoples minds or become the basis of other stories. Generation after generation they sneak out in the most unexpected places.

The most destructive stories and the hardest to eliminate are the ones we tell ourselves. As healers we see this all the time. Some are new and others were implanted when we were children. Even the old stories can be destroyed when shown the light of day.

Here are two quick examples of old and personal stories that have gone by the wayside. Chris was told, in school, that she would never make it to college. She has a bachelor’s and master’s degree. Dave was told that he can not write. Read these articles and you be the judge.

Take the person who is very upset because they had a pain in their chest. They were convinced that they had lung cancer. One of their parents, an uncle and their grandparents all died of lung cancer at about their age. Even though they do not smoke and all of their relatives that died of lung cancer did, they have told themselves the story that they would die, in their forties, of lung cancer.

This person becomes almost panic stricken with every cold or cough. If they go to a place that has heavy odors and they have some trouble breathing they attribute that to their early onset of cancer. Chances are that they will get lung cancer because they are so focused on it. Even if they remain healthy, they are spending lots of time in mental pain because of a story.

Most young people tell themselves the story that they will live to become old. Some tell this story so often that they start to believe that they are invincible. They try the most dangerous sports without the proper protection or instruction and end up with major injuries.

Before the laws were tightened this type of behavior showed up every Fourth of July in the hospital. Children would be blinded, burned or blow off fingers with fireworks. The real cause was that they had told themselves the story that they knew how to handle fireworks.

In college the story becomes one of being an experienced adult. Many college students tell themselves the story that they can control themselves. They them abuse drugs, usually alcohol, believing that they can control their body and will not get drunk.

You know the stories we tell ourselves and the consequences. Some of the stories are dangerous, some are just funny and there are some that are beneficial.

A person is injured is taken to the hospital. They are in panic and starting to hyperventilate. The nurse talks to them in a calm voice and minimizes the injury. The patient them calms down. The story the nurse tells the patient about how minor the injury is and the tone of voice are both stories. The calm and the expectation of a quick recovery speed the healing. The story is for the patient’s good.

We have all known people who believe a story they have told themselves that the doctors will cure the heart condition they have. They believe, what no doctor would even hint at, that with the surgery and medication they can live the life they were living without any change. When they get out of the hospital they return to smoking and drinking with no exercise.

They believe a story they have told themselves that the change of life style is not needed. The doctors told them to stop smoking, have no more that one glass of wine or beer on occasion and get regular aerobic exercise. The nurse and the physical therapist have reinforced the message but they tell themselves the story, and often repeat it to others.

You can tell yourself any story, if you know it is a story. Believe in the stories that stretch your horizons. Stories like “with regular exercise and a good diet I can be healthier” are good. Many stories like “I will finish my accreditation program” stop being story and become history when you get certified.

“I will recover from this situation” is story that will become history. If you add to that “and everything will be just as it was” then it will always be just a story.

To live is to grow and to change. Stories can be the guide posts on your path through life. Keep the stories positive. You will make them your history.


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