We Are The Stories We Tell About Ourselves

by Patzia Gonzalez

“To be a person is to have a story to tell.” — Sam Keen

We all carry within ourselves our stories and the stories of our ancestors. Add to that, our culture also shapes the stories we hear and how we retell them. We hear others tell stories of our early childhood. All these stories shape us, and our perception of ourselves and the world around us.

In a recent workshop I asked if anyone could remember a specific event in their life that still caused some distress. A woman shared that “she felt rejected” and was very surprised when I said that wasn’t an event; it’s a theme.

As a theme, it’s composed of a myriad of very specific events that lead to the conclusion “I always get rejected, that means I’m ….” Feel free to fill in the blank: I’m not important, not loved, not worthy, dumb, dull, etc., etc.

A specific event is, “I invited my whole classroom to my 13 year old party. There were 30 kids in that classroom and I was very excited to have them come over to my house for a party. My mom and I planned the food, the games, prizes and party favors. The day of the party, my mom baked a chocolate cake, we decorated the house, set out the food and drinks and waited, and waited… and waited some more. Finally, four of my classmates arrived. All five of us had a good time, but I felt hurt and sad that my other classmates didn’t come or call; my stomach felt queasy and I felt a knot in my throat that wouldn’t allow me to express how I felt… rejected.”

When enough events that have the same feelings and sensations occur, they lead to the development of a theme or core belief. This theme or belief becomes the filter through which we tell our story and influences our thoughts and actions. It’s like a “forest” composed of “rejection trees.” You can see the forest, but not the trees. This theme, or forest, becomes like a very tangled ball of yarn.

To unravel this tangled mess, we need to find a specific event to start pulling the thread. The level of entanglement shows up in the difficulty to find a specific event, any specific event. “There are so many.” “Can you tell me one?”

Many times this question provokes silence and a frozen look on my client’s face. We then go to the sensations that come up in the body when the client says,   “I always get rejected.” In this case, the sensations are “a queasy stomach” and “tightness in the throat.” These sensations bring the emotions of hurt and sadness with them, and a specific event. We can now work on releasing the constricted energy that will allow you a different lens to see the event through. What happened, happened. How you view the event can change radically. When the way the story is told and lived changes, the theme or core belief changes too. Suddenly, the trees in the forest become visible and a space can be made for something new.

(c) Patzia Gonzalez