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We all do it. Someone butts in front of us in the self checkout line and we immediately start creating a story in our head about what a jack-hole they are. It likely goes something like this…”What a jerk. I can’t believe that she just walked right in front of me. She must be a total hideous person. Am I invisible? I’m in a hurry too, but noooo, she doesn’t even see that I’m here. What an idiot.” Does this sound kind of familiar?
Our brains are hard-wired for story, and as Bréne Brown discusses in her book “Rising Strong” we create stories in our own heads all the time. The most dangerous stories that we create are the ones we tell ourselves. The stories we create after we are hurt, or we feel anger or pain. We create these stories to protect ourselves, and they are fuelled by deeply ingrained fallacies like “I’m not enough” or “I’m not lovable”. And back to the original example of the line-budger…”I’m invisible”. The story that no one sees me, no one cares about, or that I have no value, replay on a loop in our heads. One of my clients called it her “pain tape”, and I think that’s a pretty great description. These stories that we create, and then play on repeat, create a false sense of reality that exists only in our head. They lay the foundation for the barriers that we erect around our creativity, intelligence, humour and love. They weigh us down and hold us back from truly recognizing and tapping into our own inner brilliance.
So how do we press pause on the pain tape in our head? First, by actually listening to it. I know, that sounds a bit counter productive, but before you can actually put the tape on pause you have to have awareness of what’s playing. Bréne Brown talks about creating a “shitty first draft” of our story. This is the unfiltered and unedited version of how we feel, right in that moment of greatest pain. Dr. Brown tells us it doesn’t need to be long and elaborate, it can be as simple as point form on a post-it, just as long as you get it down. In the past I’ve suggested to clients that they wright a letter to their transgressor, knowing that the letter will never be sent. The simple act of getting that painful story out of our heads, with no filter, no polish and no inhibition, creates new awareness and a new perspective on what is often an old, and slightly worn out story.
So I challenge you to have awareness of that story in your head. To hear the pain tape and acknowledge what you’re feeling, no matter how agonizing. To let all the hurt, anger and pain flow. Get it down every angry, judgy, nasty little bit of it. And then I challenge you to get really curious about what you’ve written. Examine those thoughts. Ask yourself if they are true and accurate. And if they aren’t then maybe there’s another version of that story, a different copy of the pain tape, that you can choose. Maybe there’s a different perspective, approach or interpretation you’d like to consider. After all, it’s your story, so you can look at it any way you want.