The far end of Girls’ Side at camp in Upstate New York bordered a trailer park. On the other side of a tall stockade fence, behind bunks 2, 4, and 6, people — regular people who went to the Grand Union to buy groceries and the Hopewell Inn to have a Rolling Rock — lived in trailers and they were to be feared.
All camps have legends, right? Well, at our camp, the trailer park was the source of menacing camp mythology. Every summer, there was real alarm when the girls in bunk 6 were sure someone from the trailer park was hiding under their bunk, awaiting lights out.
Even if you weren’t in bunk 6, you could feel the fear tingling at arm’s length…maybe…it could be…right? I mean, it’s possible. Right?
There’s nothing quite like the collective drama stirred up by a pack of ten-year-old girls. The screeching chain reaction that culminates in a domino effect of panic set off by the drop of a tennis racket on the bunk’s wood floor. (That clunk??? It came from under the bunk, I swear!)
The counselors come in, the security guard is called, flashlights are drawn, and coasts are called clear as he climbs out from the under the bunk. Eventually the dust settles.
The story is de-bunked, if you will.
But what if it wasn’t? Maybe we’d outgrow it — the perception that trailer park people were hiding in the shadows. Or maybe we’d end up living in fear for the rest of our lives. (It’s a metaphor…go with me here.) The point is we have a choice. We believe in the story, in the fear, or we don’t.
There are so many more damaging stories we carry around with us. And the worst part is that we get so into retelling our stories, we don’t even realize they are stories anymore. We tell stories about our upbringing, about how smart or capable we are, or aren’t, about what looks good on us, about how we are in relationships and the love we think we deserve.
What’s the story you keep telling yourself?
The men in my life are losers and drunks?
Nothing looks good on me; I hate my body?
I always get passed-over for promotions?
I got trapped in a story for a few days earlier this year when we learned that the baby I’m carrying has a mini-titty-bitty heart defect. Was I not consistent enough in taking my vitamins? Was I working out too much? The story I fell into made it all my fault. I must have done something to cause this.
But what if this story were as true as the legend of the trailer park people to swamp thing? It’s as real as I choose to make it.
If you thought about that story in the context of a campfire legend, you’d realize you can choose to believe it, or not. You could turn to the bunkmate in your brain and be the voice of reason. You could say, “You don’t actually believe this crap, do you?” In our minds, we have entire communities of voice born of our life experiences. You only need to recruit and reprogram one scared minion at a time before you have an army that can strong-arm you our of your panic-inducing story-telling.
I outed my story by getting the facts. I asked my doctor what was real: No, it had nothing to do with vitamins. No, it wasn’t because she was bounced around too much during my workouts. Sometimes some babies hearts just take a little longer to develop than the medical community prescribes. Then it was up to me to consciously let go of self-blame.
Stand up to your stories. Now is the time to wrest back control.
Here’s how. Recognize your story. A story is anything that:
– Makes sweeping generalizations about your life
– Is peppered with abolsutes, making you powerless over your circumstances
– Assumes something about someone else, what they are thinking, doing or who they are
Keep shining a light on the falsehoods. Keep coming back to the truth. Over time, the grip of story will release its hold.
It may not be easy to believe something other than what you’ve been telling yourself for so long. But stay with it. Keep reminding yourself that you can turn from those assumptions and create a new story. You can start to tell a different, more plausible version.
That thump? It was only a tennis racket hitting the wood floor.
So, share…Is there a story you’ve been telling that you’re pretty sure has other versions? Is there a reasonable explanation you’re now willing to consider? Give us a one- or two-sentence version of your story, and the alternate version you are now willing to consider. Post your thoughts in the comments below. I’ll be around to confer! (Or we can just form a tickle train instead.)