A while ago, a friend shared a story about something that had happened to her. It was a negative event, one that left her feeling bad about herself and unable to see her own value. As she finished recounting the story, she said, “You know what? I think that’s the last time I am going to tell that.” Intrigued, I asked her to explain what she meant. She went on to say that she felt that story was keeping her stuck and she needed to stop telling it, as that kept the event (and the pain it caused her) quite fresh in her mind and heart.
Since that day, I have thought often about this moment. She was completely right, of course. Retreading any memory causes it to become more deeply etched in our minds. This allows ones that have a strong negative emotional component to continue hurting us in the present, no matter how far in the past they originally occurred.
We are firmly into January and traditionally this is a time for bringing in the new. It’s likely you have considered resolutions, set some goals and even done some organizing. But have you considered what you will get rid of? Do you have stories that need to be retired and with them, the power they have over your current state?
I know I do and I plan to do just that.
You may be wondering how to do this, so I will share my personal plan and hopefully this gives you a starting place if this idea resonates for your own life:
- Assess the negative emotion. What people, places or things tend to get me fired up in a way that doesn’t leave me feeling like my best self?
- Determine which stories and beliefs track back to these emotions. (Something to keep in mind: these may be a blind spot, so I might need to ask for some help from people who know me well and I trust deeply).
- Make a list of the stories from step two.
- Consider if there is a conversation that I need to have to get closure or information that will help me get some resolution around the events that are keeping me stuck. (This simply might not be possible, or I may determine I just don’t want to do this and that’s okay, too).
- Decide what I will do when the situation arises where I might share one of the stories with someone else (or start ruminating on my own). Perhaps I say to the other person (or myself) “That story is in my past” or “That isn’t who I am trying to be anymore.” The goal in that moment will be to give myself some grace, but quickly get back on track with the plan.
- Decide what I will do when I lose my way and go ahead and share one of the stories (or get fixated on it, on my own) despite my best intentions. Perhaps I need to apologize to the other person (or myself) and steer the conversation (or my thoughts) to another topic.
- Be patient with myself as I work on this.
- Lather, rinse, repeat.
One of the most exciting things to me about life is that we can make new choices each day. I get to decide what goes on those pages.
And if I happen to get it wrong?
Well, there’s always another chance to begin again.