Posts Tagged With: hero

Day 121: Why I relate to the Boston Carjacking “victim”

This blog post is dedicated to a wonderful, amazing member of “my team,” Carol.

I woke up this morning at 4 AM.  (Why am I doing that? I’m working on it, people.)

Almost immediately, I came up with these ideas for blog posts today:

  1. Fear of humans — and other creatures —  loving me too much. (I’m not ready, I decided, to write about THAT, yet.)
  2. “What’s in a Name?” (about what it’s like to have a name that nobody can pronounce or spell and which some people seem to make fun of).

I had decided on the latter topic (thanks to my childhood friend, Debbie, with whom I’ve recently reconnected via Facebook and blogging here).

Before I started writing, I took a quick look at the news headlines at cnn.com.  (Why, oh why, am I doing that?)  (I’m working on it, people.)

And I saw this article, titled “Carjacking victim recalls differing demeanors of  bombing suspects.”

I would like to make this a short blog post, since I think there’s A CHANCE I might be able to fall back asleep for a little while. So I would like to present two quotes from this cnn.com article and confess about why I relate to these excerpts.

Okay? Here we go …

Danny had stopped his vehicle to send a text when Tamerlan walked up and tapped on the window. The suspect, allegedly carrying a handgun, opened the door and got into the passenger seat.

When I was 22 years old,  I was driving back to where I lived with my roommate Barbara, in an apartment in Cambridge. It was late at night.  My memory is that I had  been visiting with my long-time friend, Jon, and we had been talking about our relationships with other people, as well as other topics. (By the way, believe it or not, Jon appeared in my blog post, a few days ago, here.)

After I parked my car, in back of my apartment building,  and got out of it, there was a man waiting for me.  As soon as I saw him, my heart sank.  Sure enough, he meant me harm. He took me into my car. I was sitting in the passenger seat.

Under questioning by Tamerlan, Danny played up being Chinese and tried to humanize himself by talking about cell phones and family. Danny told CNN he felt being Chinese helped save his life.

That’s exactly what I tried to do with this guy, in 1975:  “humanize” myself, because I had recently read an article — in Newsweek, I think — about how rape was an act of rage. What I got out of that article was this: one thing that might help me survive would be to humanize myself to the rapist. So, I said everything I could think of, in service of that.  And I told him that I had a pacemaker and to be careful.  And he stopped. And I said, “I’m scared.” And he said, “I’m scared for you, too.”  And I had no idea what that meant, when he said that. I thought I was still in danger.

But, I wasn’t.  He left, soon after that.

During the carjacking, Danny thought about a girl in New York whom he really liked.

He thought he’d never see her again.

I thought about my roommate, Barbara, asleep upstairs in our apartment. I thought I would never see her again.

I did. I saw her the next morning.  Now, she is my biggest supporter, as I write this blog every day.

Wow.  That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?

I’ll tell you what’s most amazing to me, right now:  Maybe this topic IS related to topic # 1 (see above)  (as well as to how I can be scared by other people’s anger).  (I’m working on both of those, people!)

It’s incredible what happens, sometimes, when you are “putting it into words.”*

Thanks for reading these words today, dear readers.

______

* This is a personal “shout-out,” to my faithful reader,  Lena.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Day 101: Bill Rodgers stopped to tie his shoe

Yesterday, my son’s father told us something I didn’t know, during a discussion about Bill Rodgers, who won both the Boston and New York City Marathons many times in the 1970s. We were talking about what an incredible runner he was, and I mentioned that I had seen a documentary about running where they described him as “perfectly built to run marathons.”

Then my son’s dad said this:

“Famously, during a Boston Marathon where he broke a record, he stopped during the race to tie his shoe.”

I immediately knew that was my blog post for today.

That is such a wonderful, compact little story.  And such a great image, too.  Bill Rodgers, in the middle of a race where he is (unaware) on pace to break the record, stopping calmly to tie his shoe.

And, there are so many ways to “read” that story.

What conclusions do you draw about it? What does that tell you about him, as a runner and as a person?

How do you make meaning of that?

Even among the people involved in that discussion yesterday, there were some different conclusions:

He was smart, because if he didn’t stop, he might have tripped.

Because he was so much better than anybody in the race, he could afford to do that.

And when I googled “Bill Rodgers stopping to tie his shoe” this morning, I noticed it being used to make different points (including The Paramount Importance of Shoe Lacing).

But this is how I immediately heard that story yesterday:

If you’re going to run the race, you need to stop and take care of yourself.

because that’s the lesson I need to be re-learning, right now.

As I’m writing this post this morning, I’m realizing this, too:  Bill Rodgers Stopping To Tie His Shoe could also be a perfect illustration of two other phrases I have found to be helpful (for myself and for other people):

#1.  You have all the time you need.

#2.  Lose your investment in the outcome.

What a great story.

So, thanks to Bill Rodgers, to my son’s dad, and to you, for reading today.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Day 68: Barriers to Connection

This post is dedicated to my wonderful cousin, Lani, because the number 68 is very special to her.

Connection is super important to me.  And, while I only truly know my own experience, I’ve gotta believe that connection is also very important to most of you reading this.  (Data supporting this assumption:  If connecting with other people and their ideas was NOT important to you, why would you be reading this?)

I think a lot about connection — because of the work I do as a psychotherapist and because it makes life worthwhile for me.

Therefore, I also think a lot about the barriers to connection. What gets in the way of human beings connecting better with each other?

I will now make a list of possible candidates.

Barriers to Connection I Have Known

by Ann Koplow

Barrier #1.  My own insecurities.

This is probably the biggest barrier to my connecting in a more authentic, uncomplicated, and effective way to other people.  As a matter of fact, this might be a very short list. And a very short blog post.

Let’s see, do I have more to say about this?

Well, I could list my insecurities, which get in the way of connecting with other people.

Here are some of them:

  1. I’m not smart enough.  There are so many things that other people know that I don’t.
  2. I’m too smart, in some weird way, and people don’t understand what I’m trying to tell them.
  3. I’m just weird, because of my unique set of past experiences, so people don’t understand what I’m trying to tell them.

Okay.  Is there anything else I want to tell you about this, today, dear reader?

I guess not.

It looks like a beautiful day outside.  I’m going out there, people!

Thanks for reading.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Day 59: WORLD RECORD (pacemaker)

I’m typing this post while waiting for an appointment this morning at The Pacemaker Clinic.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog, I’ve had a pacemaker since I was 10 years old.   I Am The Longest Surviving Person in the World with a Pacemaker.*  I used bragging initial caps in that previous sentence because of something new I’ve been doing lately. I’m being open, even proud, about this.

A couple of summers ago, at a group therapy conference I attend every year, I was participating in a day-long therapy group. During the afternoon, I revealed to the group my Big Secret for People Who Don’t Know Me: the heart stuff and how that affected my childhood. I also described my fears about how revealing this might screw up my connection to the other people in the group. I was afraid that they would withdraw, or see me in a very different way:  as The Person With The Pacemaker.

There was this really cool woman in the group, who was wearing these great shoes.

kelsi dagger

(They’re Neeves, by Kelsi Dagger, which I’ve since found for myself online.)

This woman in my group said to me, “Why not be proud about that?  I’m hoping that next year, when you return to this conference, you’ll be wearing a t-shirt that says something like “World’s Longest Surviving Person With a Pacemaker!”

What she said made a big impression on me. All year, I considered getting a t-shirt.   And a week before last summer’s conference, I ordered this t-shirt on-line.

wm-front

During the day of the conference, I had a jacket over the t-shirt (I was too self-conscious to have it out there completely),  but I did show it to the people from my group the year before.  And they thought it was quite cool.

Okay. Time for my appointment. The people at the Pacemaker Clinic are definitely on My Team, and I’ll write more about them in a post here, very soon.

Thanks for reading today!

* Note: In late January 2014, almost a year after I published this post, I heard from somebody who has had a pacemaker longer than I have.  See the comments below, for more about that. I actually am no longer wearing the t-shirt. I’d like to send the t-shirt to the real champ … we’ll see how that goes!

 

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 41 Comments

Day 47: A Noble Weekend Quest, To Fight SHOULDs

So this is the beginning of a long weekend. Monday is Presidents’ Day!

Yay!

(And what might this mean for you, dear reader?  Some long posts, perhaps?)

Where was I before that parenthesized warning?

Oh yes. I feel like I really need this long weekend, because the last few weekends have had much more stress than usual.

Now, stress isn’t always bad.  The way I’ve been defining Adventure in this blog is “something new,” and New-ness (and change in general) is inherently more stressful.  Don’t you think?

Here’s why I haven’t had a “normal” weekend for a while.  Last weekend, I was unexpectedly caught in South Carolina, due to the snowstorm. The weekend before was my 60th birthday party, which was great, but Packed With New-ness (and wonder). And several weekends before the Birthday Weekend, I was focusing on party-planning.

Phew!  So it’s nice to be sitting on my couch this Saturday morning with a sense of routine and with nothing of note looming on the horizon. (Except for taxes, which I’m SURE I will blog about sometime within the next couple of months.)

So nothing is looming right now.

I’m really liking that word “looming” as a description of how it feels when there’s something big I think I should be dealing with.

However, as I’ve written in this blog —  for example, waaaaaay back on Day 5 —  SHOULDs can come up at any times,  whether something big is looming or not. (BTW, you can find definitions of SHOULDs and the other 12 Cognitive Distortions, here).

Therefore, chances are that SHOULDs will come up for me, over this  long weekend. Hmmmm.  What might I do about that?

A-ha!

Cue trumpets, for an important announcement!!!

(Okay, now imagine the inspiring, heroic sound of a trumpet flourish.)

(Wait. Hold on. I wonder if there is a way to imbed a sound bite in a blog?) (Not that I’ve ever imbedded a sound into anything, yet.) (It’s another adventure!)

(Research, research, research…..)

All right. I think I’m ready for  … Cue trumpets, TAKE 2!

https://annkoplow.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/78825__primordiality__fanfare-4.wav

Not sure if that worked, but — whether you’re hearing trumpets in your mind or actually hearing them in this post — here’s my announcement:

Friends, Readers, and Fellow Bloggers, lend me your ears. This weekend,  I come to bury  SHOULDs, not to praise them.

Or, to put this in another olde-fashioned, more heroic-type way:

I hereby declare myself a SHOULD Warrior. This weekend,  I shalt venture forth and battle against Shoulds!!

Okay, now I have to arm myself for this quest. Here are four pieces of weaponry I can take with me:

 #1:  I shalt notice SHOULDs and name them as such.

For example, I am now naming a SHOULD statement that has already come up for me today:

I SHOULD send thank you notes for the gifts some people brought to the party.

#2: I shalt restate — or reframe — the SHOULD statement, in a helpful way.

For example,   “I COULD write thank you notes.  Instead, I CHOOSE TO ______ .”  (Thanks to my friend Debbie T., who offered that great suggestion, in a comment she posted here. )

I’m realizing that I  could fill in that blank (despite the word “Instead”) with the same action — writing the thank you notes.  With this reframe, though, I am  making a choice to write them, rather than adding to my stress with a SHOULD-ed obligation.

And that, my reader, makes all the difference.

# 3:  I shalt think about the benefit to me if I do choose to take the action.  

For example, if I do choose to spend time this weekend to figure out who left me gifts during the party  and sending thank you notes, I’ll get a sense of closure about the party. Which I would enjoy.

# 4: I shalt let go of judgment (and regret or guilt) about the past actions which have contributed to this current situation.

I have definitely, already, been judging myself and feeling some regret and guilt about the party gifts. I have judged myself for not being  “together” enough the night of the party to keep track of those gifts as people brought them. And I’ve also judged myself for Procrastinating  about this since (see more about the dread P-word, here).

Right now, as I’m writing this to you, I feel like I need to make excuses.  (For example, I wasn’t expecting people to bring gifts; I hadn’t planned to open gifts during the party, so I didn’t;  I didn’t have a place to put them, so they got scattered;  when I looked at them right after the party, some of the cards got separated from the gifts, yadda yadda yadda)

I’m going to let go of all that, right now.

And I’m noticing that  I was definitely using some other SHOULD statements there (I SHOULD have been more aware of the gifts, I SHOULDN’T have gone away on my trip without figuring this out before I left, etc. etc.)

Oh, and here’s two more Cognitive Distortions I’m noticing in my thoughts about these thank-you notes:  Mind Reading and Fortune Telling.  That is, I’m worrying about my guests’ present AND future thoughts about my lack of responses about the gifts.

For example:

People are going to think I’m so lame because I haven’t sent thank you notes. And  boy! They will  REALLY think I’m lame if I send a thank-you note that says something  like, “Errr, ummmm, , I don’t know what you gave me!”

This is what I’m thinking right now: How amazing is that? Look at what I’m doing!  I’m projecting judgment onto wonderful and devoted friends of mine, who came to my birthday party to joyfully celebrate with me.  Do I REALLY BELIEVE that these people are going to judge me like that?  And if they do have a thought like that, won’t it pass?  Won’t it just be one of a kashmillion thoughts they might have about me?

And now I’m realizing my worst fear, behind those thoughts.

My losing track of the gifts, and not writing thank you notes,  might really damage these relationships.

Arrrrghh.  Sometimes,  I am just AMAZED,  when I take a step back and look at a worst fear, like that.

Yes, it’s incredible to me — the primal, irrational fears that can lurk behind  my Mind Reading, Fortune Telling, Shoulds, and other judgmental thoughts.

Well, what can I say? This is an on-going quest for me:  letting go of SHOULDs, Mind Reading, and other unhelpful, judgmental thoughts.

It’s a difficult quest, and a noble one, indeed.

I feel like I rode some distance forward on this quest today, dear reader. Thanks for riding along beside me.

Ta-da!!!!

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Day 36: Adventure (meanings and meetings)

So this morning, I set off on an adventure.

I’m flying by myself to someplace I’ve never been before.

Now,when I use the word “adventure,” I  mean doing something new.  But I wonder if new-ness is part of the formal definition of the word “adventure”?

Let’s find out. Here’s the first definition of “adventure” I found on-line:

An unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.

Hmmm. That’s interesting. Even though that definition doesn’t include the concept of “new”, it DOES reflect the two important components of doing something new (for me) — (1) excitement and (2) fear (see “hazardous”).

I’ll check one other definition before I move on.

Okay, this definition is from Merriam-Webster online:

1.  An undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks

2. An exciting or remarkable experience.

Interesting. Definition #1  includes the Fear Factor, and Definition #2  has the Excitement Aspect.

But the language doesn’t refer to something new.

However, Merriam-Webster does include the word “remarkable.” And the first definition includes the word “unusual.”  And “remarkable” and “unusual” does imply something that you do very rarely.

So, even if an adventure is not completely new, it’s probably gonna feel new.

I don’t know about you, but part of my experience of new-ness can often include judgment.  And I think that’s probably natural, since I’ll be doing things I haven’t done before.  As a result, I’ll be more likely to make mistakes and to judge myself for not knowing more.  (And, I’ve been working on letting go of judgment today.  Big time.)

Okay, now that I’ve covered the “Meanings” portion of this blog post, I’d like to move on the “Meetings” portion of the post. (In case I lost anybody right there, I’m referring back to the title of this post — “Adventure (meanings and meetings).”)

So, I met somebody new this morning, on the very first part of my adventure.

The first part of my adventure involved getting to the airport. And the decision I had made about this first leg of the journey was to make it easy on myself – and everybody around me — by using a transportation service to the airport.

My niece, Laura (who is not only a wonderful niece but also a fabulous travel agent)  had recommended that I use a transportation company called Smurfs.  And who wouldn’t want to use a company with THAT name, to begin a scary and exciting adventure?  Just hearing that name, I felt fuzzy and safe. (Not that I actually ever watched the TV show the “Smurfs.”  But I knew what those Smurfs looked like. And they looked blue, friendly, and reasonably competent to drive a vehicle.)

So, after Laura recommended The Smurfs for transportation, I did what I needed to do to feel good about that decision.  (That is, I googled “Smurfs transportation” and saw good reviews about value and reliability.)

So, this morning, as I was feeling excited and scared, vulnerable and brave,  and was leaving the familiar safety of my home,  I was picked up (at the perfect time!) by a stranger.

The Smurf Driver.

And because this is the Year of Living Non-Judgmentally, when I got into the car and met The Smurf Driver, I let go of self-judgment and projection onto others. That is,  I decided NOT to assume  that:

(1) The driver might prefer that his passengers be as quiet as possible.  (By the way, this would be the cognitive distortion of “Mind Reading”.)

(2)  What I might say might include uninteresting, inane, boring, or annoying thoughts.  (Cognitive Distortion?  “Labelling.”)

And, during the drive to the airport, The Smurf Driver (whose name is John) and I had a great conversation.  John and I talked about the usual things drivers and passengers talk about: the routes to the airport, the flight I was taking, and so on.  But in the course of the time we spent together, we also talked about the fear and the excitement of adventure.  He told me that he had just started working for Smurfs after working a long time for another transportation company. It was his second day!  So, of course, he was dealing with the new-ness of that.  And, not surprisingly, he was experiencing some fear AND excitement. And he recognized that he had some self-judgment  about what he didn’t know.

And I told John about the new things I’ve been doing, and how I’ve been trying to let go of fear and judgment.  Among other things, I told him about this blog.  He said he planned to read it.

If you found your way here, John,  Hello!  And thank you for the conversation this morning.

I got a lot out of that conversation.

It’s always helpful, when you meet a fellow adventurer —  especially when you’re just starting out on an adventure of your own.

Thanks for reading, everybody.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 30: If you think something positive about somebody, let them know, dammit.


Note: This is another blog-inated version of a chapter from a book I’ve been writing. The working title for this book is “AFOG: Another F***ing Opportunity for Growth.”

So here’s another lesson I keep learning over and over again.  People just don’t hear enough praise.

Most people I’ve encountered seem to concentrate most of their energy on the negative. They notice what’s wrong, in themselves, in others, and in their environment. And that makes sense, on lots of levels.  “If you fix this, things will improve.”  That might seem like the most effective way to survive and succeed.

Noticing and naming mistakes and flaws — with no recognition of the positive  — can be effective…

….. if you’re running a factory of machines.

So you see my point here.   We’re not machines. And with people, a constant focus on what’s not working can backfire. It can have the opposite effect. Too much emphasis on mistakes and criticism — without a balance of positive acknowledgement — can deplete people and make it harder for them to do well.

So here’s my proposal.  Let’s do what we can to try to restore some balance here.  If you find yourself authentically thinking or feeling something positive about somebody, tell them.  I’m willing to guarantee something:  They’re not hearing enough of that.  And on some level, they’ll like it.  They might feel uncomfortable, especially if it feels unfamiliar, but that’s a discomfort that’s important to face.

When I work with people, one thing I often ask them in a first interview is how they feel about praise. (This is important to ask, because I will probably be giving them some honest feedback,  which will definitely include some positive observations.)  I often hear this response:  “I’m not good with praise.”  But nobody has ever said to me anything like, “Whatever you do, don’t give me any authentic positive feedback.”

So I do offer that when I can. Because, really, what’s more therapeutic than that?

One of my Therapy Heroes is Michael White.  Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia:

Michael White (29 December 1948 – 4 April 2008[1]) was an Australian social worker and family therapist. He is known as the founder of narrative therapy.

I got to see Michael White speak.  It was wonderful. And I remember him inviting the audience to do what I’m writing about here.  I wish I could remember his language, because he was a terrific speaker.  The way I remember what he said is this: If you are thinking something positive about somebody, let that person know.  Don’t assume that they know.  It’s a helpful thing to do, for you and for the other person.

And I remember taking that in and wanting to apply it, that very day.  I remember waiting in line to tell Michael White how wonderful I thought his theories were, how much I loved using narrative therapy with my patients, how much I had enjoyed his talk, and so on.

Strangely enough, I can’t remember whether I ever got to tell him.  it’s possible I did.  It’s possible that I couldn’t, because so many people were waiting to talk to him, that I didn’t get a chance.

But what is important is that I heard him and it changed me. I decided that day to express authentic positive thoughts when I had the opportunity.

So, at work, if somebody tells me something positive about somebody else and expresses appreciation for what they’ve done, I make it a habit to pass that on directly to the person.  I’ll write an e-mail to somebody and say, “I just heard so-and-so say this particular thing about you, and I just wanted to let you know.”  I don’t know how other people take that.  Maybe they think I’m trying to suck up to them.  Maybe they think I’m sickeningly sweet.  Who knows.

I don’t care. I’m honoring Michael White and my own value system.  And I’ll do that whenever I can.

Thanks for reading.

© 2013 Ann Koplow

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Day 11: You might as well be the hero of your own story.

(Note:  This post is an adaptation of another chapter for a potential book.)

(More important note:  If I ever refer in this blog to somebody I’ve worked with, I will have changed the name and any identifying details.)

In her first therapy session with me, a woman I’ll call Selena told me how she had stopped using crack cocaine 10 years ago, after years of addiction starting when she was only 14.

I could see Selena’s shame and regret as she told me how unavailable she had been to her children when they were young.  She also told me about her mother, who had raised her children for her. Her mother had been — and was still, the day of our meeting — very disappointed in Selena.  Selena said, “She always talks to me like I’m no good.”

 
As Selena told me her rich, complicated story, she looked weary and sad, and her language about herself was painfully judgmental. She was owning responsibility for the consequences of her choices, but she also seemed beaten and hopeless about the future. She seemed to agree with how her mother saw her. I waited for her to say something positive about herself — at least to show some pride about how she’d stopped using drugs on her own and had been sober for a decade. Also, I could hear that she was doing so much to repair the relationships with her grown children, and how that was going very well.

And she revealed so many admirable qualities in her first meeting with me, including empathy, humor, and creativity.  But when I asked her to name her positive qualities, which I do during every first session, she couldn’t name a thing. She said, “There’s nothing positive about me.” When I reflected back those positive qualities I had witnessed in her already, she didn’t buy it.  She said, “I’ve screwed up so many things in my life, how could I see myself those ways?”

While I wanted to respect where she was — and certainly not invalidate her experience —   I also wanted to invite her to see things a little differently. On impulse, I said to her,  “This is what I’m thinking, Selena.  Why not see yourself as the hero of  your own story? You might as well. It’s your story, for heaven’s sake.”  And we talked about stories in movies or books, where a hero could screw up, alienate people, and even make a total mess of things at times. But the hero was always the hero.

 
The way I invited Selena to be the hero of her own story is straight out of Narrative Therapy, one of my favorite ways of working with people. Narrative Therapy focuses on the stories we tell about ourselves, including how we describe and present ourselves as the protagonist — the main character of our story. There are so many different ways to tell ANY story, and as we tell the story of our lives to ourselves and others, we are constantly making choices. We are  picking and choosing different details and interpretations, as we make meaning of our complex lives and the parts we play.

I have to admit that, as I’ve told the story of my life to myself and others over the years, there have been times where I haven’t seen myself as The Hero of my own story. Instead, I’ve been the The Loser. Or The Villain.  Or The Victim. Or some unimportant cast member, like Girl in Crowd with Squint.

Not being the hero of your own story may very well be the hardest thing to endure. We can always, somehow, meet and move through anything — including pain, suffering, and tragedy. But not  if we’ve torn our best selves out of the picture, leaving behind a void — a powerless, scorned creature stripped of possibility.

My most unbearable experiences of this — of not being able to see myself as the hero of my own story — were two  clinical depressions, at ages 22 and 45. During both bouts of depression (each lasting about six months, though they seemed much, much longer), my critical self judgment went through the roof. I found it impossible to see myself as worthwhile in any way, much less the hero of anybody’s story.

Actually, when I was depressed, I rewrote the positive parts of my story up until then, to make them fit my new narrative conclusion — that I was a worthless, weird, and pathetic person. For example, I was pretty well liked in high school and got elected to class officer my freshman and senior years. When I got depressed at 22, I rewrote that story completely. I decided that I had been such an object of ridicule and dislike, that my classmates had voted me in as practical jokes, laughing at me all the while. ( By the way, I came up with that imaginative and dastardly plot device on my own, about the same time that Stephen King was using a similar motif in “Carrie”) (although in King’s version, the humiliation was real, not imagined, and pretty much everybody got killed).


When my clients concoct such false, negative stories about themselves, I often acknowledge and admire their creativity, but I also invite them to look at the consequences of their negative narrative choices, which can be so miserable and painful.

Think about the stories you tell about yourself, dear reader, and how you describe yourself as a “character” in those stories. Do you tend to tell certain types of stories about yourself?

And if you’re  accentuating the negative, could you tell those same stories differently?

Think about it. You might already be telling the story of yourself quite differently at different times — depending on your mood, your distance from the events, and  how you happen to be seeing and judging yourself (and life in general) in the moment of the telling.

Inviting somebody else in — to hear your story and to give you feedback — can often help you tell the same story quite differently.  Different people add very different  perspectives.  (See, for example, “Rashomon,” a movie built on just that.)  Some people have perspectives that might be helpful, while others won’t (like Selena’s mother).

How about you? What stories do you tend to tell about yourself and how do you present yourself as a character? If you tend to tell stories about screw ups and disappointments, how does that make you feel?  Compare that to how you feel when you tell stories showcasing your good qualities (or something you love, something you’ve accomplished, or somebody who is important to you).

In every negative story you might tell, there are the seeds of a thousand different ways to tell it, authentically and with more positive shadings.  This isn’t an Everything is Beautiful,  rainbows-and-unicorns claim on my part — it’s  always true. There’s no way to tell any story completely and perfectly, capturing all the complexities and nuances of all the characters and details involved. Therefore, every story we tell contains different tales with different conclusions, and we make choices at each point in the telling.

So, again, why not make yourself the hero of your own story?  I don’t mean a simplistic, perfectly good hero, but a complex hero who makes mistakes. A hero who feels not only “positive feelings” like  joy and optimism. but also “negative” ones like anger, fear, sadness, disappointment, and despair.

I hope, I hope, I hope  that you can see yourself as your own hero,  as much as you possibly can.   Because it HELPS, more than anything else I’ve ever seen.

© 2013 Ann Koplow

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

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