Stop reading if you've read this before. Sometimes people hear some facts and fill in the rest, creating a negative narrative.
Heard of that before?
I have. I frequently follow this model.
Let's take a day at random, say, today, because I can easily remember what's happened today.
Woke up at 3 AM with a vicious leg cramp gripping my calf. The discomfort drove me out of bed and down the hall to cope with it. Damn, that hurts, I thought.
I couldn't sleep for a while and ended up beginning my work day. But I couldn't connect to my work applications and site. Oh, no, again, I thought.
Daylight was showing itself. I opened the blinds to thick fog. What a day this will be, I thought.
Seven AM and it's already all going against me.
Carolyn Hax penned a recent column that mirrored this idea that we're victims of cosmic conspiracies. She adapted the question from a recent online session.
- "Dear Carolyn: How do I stop feeling so sorry for myself that things don't seem to go well? Or rather, that they start to go well and inevitably something ruins it?" They called themselves One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.
We know that's a mind game. Many of us cope with the clever ways our minds attempt to sabotage our resolutions and intentions. We shoehorn issues in to fit our disastrous narrative that the world or universe has decided against us. We're never going to get ahead. Might as well just give up now.
Frequently for me the narrative resembles the lament of One Step Forward, Two Steps Back. Just as I conclude I'm finally making progress, bad things happen and push back down the summit I'm climbing.
Carolyn replied as I have again and again, blogging and talking to myself. Keep going. It's not as bad as you're making it out to be. "Plus, good things come even to you," she concluded. "With good fortune, you just need to notice it's there."
Yes, just look on the sunny side of the street.
Looking on the sunny side challenges many of us, especially when we don't know all the facts or when we've been working for a long period to achieve something. It's easy to write, "Just look at the sunny side of the street." Many of us though end up feeling that we can't see the sunny side because of the fog.
What Carolyn is really writing is that we're the fog creators that stop us from seeing the sunny side.
Rachel Gardner directly addressed that in a recent post. "The Facts vs. The Story You Tell Yourself." She wrote mirrors of the other lines, that we often create a negative situation in the absence of knowledge. Her first scenario is exactly where I live:
Fact: An unpublished author has been querying agents for a couple of years with no success.
Story: “I’m a terrible writer and will never be published.” Alternate story: “The publishing industry is full of idiots who can’t recognize a good book.”
More positive and probably truer stories: “I haven’t yet hit my stride as a writer,” or “I haven’t yet found the right outlet to publish my work.”
That completely summarizes my response to many issues. I analyze and then create a story to explain the gaps. In this case, I can't get published more, can't land an agent, because my writing sucks.
I suspect that there may be one or two other writers who feel the same, although I'm not certain. Most writers are brilliant, talented marvels brimming with self-confidence. They don't endure this narrative like me.
See, that's part of the narrative. We write alone. We present writing to others, seeking feedback, but we're not certain how much to trust their feedback.
The problems with creating these narratives is that we begin living them. They're energy sucks and attention mines, reinforcing our self-perceptions of being talentless and useless, doomed to never achieve any of our dreams.
A real life method of directly coping with it came from an NFL football game this weekend.
I stopped by my neighbor's house to drop off some books. He had one of the wild-card games on. I don't know which game it was.
The announcers were talking about a receiver. The receiver had just made a catch and the announcers were talking about how often he used to drop balls. He'd turned that around by talking to himself. He reminds himself how much he's achieved, and talks himself out of his funk, especially if he just dropped a pass or screwed up, and he encourages himself with a pep talk when he does well.
The amusing part of it came when the announcers mentioned he often does this aloud during games. The opposing team players become concerned, and one or more of them will come up to him and ask, "Are you okay?"
I of course, talk to myself. I have my mantras. They're reinforcements that I can endure, overcome and achieve.
Sometimes, though, they're not enough.
So I've decided to give myself pep talks. Actually, I've always given myself pep talks, too. Now, though, I'm going to start giving them to myself aloud, perhaps when I'm out on my walks.
That behavior may bother others. The police or some concerned citizen might come by and ask if I'm okay. That's why I'll use my cell phone as a decoy. When people see and hear me talking and see my cell phone, they'll think I'm on a call.
They won't know that I'm just calling myself.
Carolyn Hax's column: http://www.indystar.com/article/20130107/LIFE/301070302/Carolyn-Hax-Sovereign-bad-luck-needs-abdicate-take-realistic-look-life
Rachel Gardner's blog:
(There's some great comments in Rachael's blog from writers. Apparently some of them experience something similar to me.)
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com