Are You Tired Of Your Stories? - Part 1

From the moment we open our eyes until the time we lay our heads down to sleep, a story is running through our heads. This story is the narrative we create about ourselves, about others, and about the circumstances and events occurring in our lives. Another way of saying this is that our story is what we make up ABOUT what is happening, rather than what actually exists. We craft our tale around our past experiences, our perspective or view of life, and our interpretation of what we believe is true. Inside our heads, these stories seem to be one hundred percent true, but are they?

A human brain takes in four million bits of information every second, but it cannot fully process nearly that much. Since the brain's primary focus is ensuring our survival and conserving our energy, it cuts, slices, and dices that information down to only 189,000 bits of information or four percent of what it originally took in. The selection process our brains use to decide what to discard and what to keep during this intense editing process is called our Biological Filters, which we have trained to listen for certain things. The training method we use to create the agenda for our biological filters is based on what we believe to be true, and we work to prove our beliefs right as we take these small clips or snapshots of information and stitch them together to confirm our story.

Our filters delete, distort, and generalize the information we are absorbing in every scenario we encounter. Each conversation we have with ourselves, our spouse, our children, our boss, or our co-workers is being drastically edited. When we see food or think about eating, those ideas are run through our filters. As we decide what to do at work and whether or not a task is worth our time and energy, we are flushing those thoughts and questions through our narrative. Our beliefs about money, success, value, and worth are shaping each currency exchange and business transaction.  The filtering never stops.

These stories we craft based on our beliefs run on auto-pilot. We don’t even notice they are going on. This editing isn’t bad, broken, or wrong; it is a huge part of what helps us survive. However, when these filters are functioning without our awareness, they lead us to keep repeating our past.

The best news is that, if we can understand how they work, we can train these filters to aid us in producing the results we long for.  

The process works like this: something occurs, we observe it, our story is crafted from the small amount of information we process, and we move forward, believing that our story about what we just observed is absolutely true.  Since most of our core beliefs have been in place since before we began talking, they seem very real to our minds.

Here is an example from my life. My conception was a surprise to my parents and unwelcome news during one of the most stressful times of their lives. My mother’s anxiety and fear about her life and circumstances consumed my developing body. Before I even had thoughts, my body began to feel that life was scary, unpredictable, and that I must not be valuable.

Once I made my way into the world, those fears seemed to be confirmed by the anger and violence present in my childhood home. Without even realizing it, I developed beliefs that life was unsafe, people couldn’t be trusted, and I wasn’t worthy of love.

As I grew and connected with peers, I took four percent of the information coming to me by deleting, distorting, and generalizing it to confirm my beliefs about myself, others, and life. This process continued into my marriage, parenting, and business life without me being aware of it.

My joy, passion, and drive were slowly diminishing, as I lived moment by moment through this narrative. And, while I had success on the outside, my inner world continued to become bleaker amongst my skewed view.

In 2009, I came to the end of my capacity to live inside my painful version of my life's events, and I began to investigate my stories or what I believed was true about my experiences. This process of inquiry began to change everything.

It was as if someone turned the lights on, and they began to flood into the dark corners of my mind where I had been creating my own suffering.

Next week, I will walk deeper into this simple process of inquiry but, for now, I invite you into your own investigation this week. As you notice areas in your life where you long for different results than you are currently experiencing, consider what you are telling yourself is true about that situation? If you want to go an extra step and write it down, that will be even more helpful.  Happy Investigating!