I woke up late, plain and simple. I had a massage appointment that I was supposed to be at in ten minutes. The first thing that went through my head was whether I should just not call and go sit in a coffee shop to steal this time for much-needed work. I’m always on time and dependable, so I can get away with it, is the story I began to tell myself. Then I noticed a negative sensation in my body. Nope. Not doing that. I’m going to go to my appointment, just late. But what should I say? Over the years, I have trained myself to be able to come up with many things to say in a moment like this. Sure, it was a lie, but a small one that makes everyone get along better… Traffic. I was stuck in traffic. That’s what I’ll say. No, I needed something less generic. My kid. She made me late. No again. I had car problems. It may be my battery or alternator. No, I needed something more extreme. I know what I’ll say. I locked my keys in the car and am waiting for my family member to bring my other key! My mind went on like this for some time. But all this felt wrong in my body.
What would I tell someone in my situation? What am I always saying to people around me? Tell the truth. Don’t make up a lie. Lies don’t feel good in your body. You never have to remember the truths you say, but you always need to remember the lies you told, so you can keep them straight. It’s too much work to live like that. My body was trying to remind me of something I already knew. I didn’t notice all the stress and anxiety that I had created in myself until I had decided to speak the truth and say what happened. I called, apologized to the receptionist and told her facts. I was in luck. No one was scheduled after me and I wouldn’t have to pay the $50 inconvenience fee. It could have easily gone the other way, but I’d still be free of guilt.
It is important to understand the risks associated with the dark side of storytelling. There are dangers that come with being stuck in that rut and using this powerful tool to evade the truth of a situation. On the flip side, you can use storytelling to create many positive things in your life. It is my hope that I can help you identify the difference between the light and dark side of storytelling. We’ll discuss that further in another post but, I’ll tell you, the best way to tell the difference is to know what is a positive or negative story and why you are telling it. For instance, if you are telling a story to avoid a situation, it’s most likely negative. But if you are using your imagination to overcome a repeated story, a fear of public speaking perhaps, and you tell yourself that you can speak to a room full of people and not feel like a deer in head lights, even though it scares you just the same, then this is a positive story.
Things to remember for now
- See the situation for what it is. Some people call this being present or stepping back from the situation.
- Ask yourself, how does this help?
- Eliminate negative self-talk from yourself. I can’t, is no longer something you say or even think in your head.
- Remember to take a deep breath.
- Role play: What advice would you give to someone in the same situation?