#Askingforafriend: Are you making up stories?
By Kristan Farley
GCU Office of Student Care
We often see someone’s nonverbal reaction or lack of reaction and begin to write a story about what that must mean. She doesn’t like me. He is mad at me. They think I am stupid.
In her book, “Rising Strong,” Brene’ Brown describes how we are continually writing stories and can spend hours or days thinking negatively about this story that often isn’t accurate. She suggests that instead of assuming and writing a negative story, we process through it differently.
The Reckoning: Take time to notice, identify and have a reckoning with your emotions.
This is difficult because it takes vulnerability and uncertainty to get curious about ourselves. It’s much easier to get defensive, act superior, numb out or overreact and fire off that email we’ll regret later. It’s a brave act to acknowledge our feelings rather than deny them.
What do you do when you feel as if you have failed or someone else is mad at you? Do you act out? Shut down? Go into a shame spiral? Recognize and have the courage to reckon with what you are feeling.
The Rumble: Rumble with thoughts and feelings until you can objectively report the facts with no assumptions.
We all make up stories about our struggles based on incomplete information. It’s important that we move from our first knee-jerk reactions and seek a deeper understanding of our thoughts, feelings and behaviors about who we are and how we engage with others.
After we identify the story we’re making up, it’s time to probe our assumptions, which are usually self-defeating. Brown recommends asking ourselves other questions:
- “What do I know objectively?”
- “What more do I need to learn and understand about the other people in the story?”
- “What more do I need to learn and understand about myself?”
Now, we can look for the difference between the story we make up and a more objective truth. Then, choose a response:
- Let it go, assume goodwill and move on.
- Forgive, admitting what happened was distressing and take steps to forgive.
- Reconcile, take steps to make it right.
The Revolution: Making a new practice to rise out of struggle in a healthy way.
The Revolution is about using the Rising Strong process – making it a daily practice and way of engaging with the world. Brown says it starts with a “vision that we can rise from our experiences of hurt and struggle in a way that allows us to live more wholehearted lives. However, transforming the way we live, love, parent and work requires us to act on our vision.”
We can catch ourselves writing negative stories and replace assumptions with objective truth. We can say, “I am writing the story that you are mad at me. Is that true?” We can rumble until we learn to let it go, forgive and make amends.