18.5.08

The stories we tell

A very close friend of mine spent last weekend with the Landmark Forum. While there, she learned to unpack the stories she had been telling herself about her life, the things that were causing breakdowns in communications and preventing her from getting on with things.

Now, I don't believe you need to spend that money to learn how to see clearly that you are not the kid that got held back a year, or who couldn't get a prom date (or perhaps peaked as Prom Queen). Having said that, I do think that it can be difficult - but very useful - to let go of the past "junk" we're hanging on to, to live lightly emotionally. Holding past grievances against someone isn't healthy, just as trying to live up (or down) to who people thought you were isn't healthy.

It's also pretty damn difficult to change. You can change your job, and all the mistakes and attitudes you had from your previous one won't necessarily follow... unless you let them. It takes work, and commitment, and a self-promise not to beat yourself up if you slip a little (and believe me, as someone with a persistent "few pounds" to lose, I know all about that one!).

Today I read I am Not Joey Pigza, and what my friend has gone through resonated throughout the book. Joey's just figuring out and coming to terms with who he is, when all of a sudden he's being told he's now Freddy Heinz. Joey keeps popping up, as can be expected. His mother isn't happy about that, nor is his newly-returned father. But his father's change from Carter Pigza to Charles Heinz doesn't "take" either, because the underlying person isn't really changing. There's no self-check to say, "ok, you messed up but you can correct this" or "yes, this works and feels good so let's keep on doing it." It's just a sad slide downward.

That's what too many of us do when we try to change. Best of all possible intentions, followed by a few "oopses" and then backsliding into what we were. I hope for my friend's sake that her time at the Forum does affect a real change; as they told her, you have to keep at it, keep practicing, or it'll go away.

Changing your story, or the (as I prefer to think of it) the backstory to the character you know as yourself, is never easy. I think Joey does get some good change out of his time as Freddy, but it would probably have come without being ripped from his known life. Changing even one story, one learned behavior, one small thing can lead to a landslide of change.

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