What story are you telling yourself?

What story are you telling yourself? December 1, 2012

Recently, I’ve become fascinated by the stories we tell ourselves, and the impact they have on our inner states and on how we live our lives. Having been trained as a hypnotherapist, I understand the power of hypnotic induction in how we interact with ourselves and the world. I see how often my clients are unwittingly hypnotizing themselves with detailed stories of pasts that were full of pain, presents that are unfulfilling, and futures that will be scary and awful. Each of these stories mimic skilled hypnotic technique through active imagination of how bad things were, are or will be in how they look, feel, sound, even taste and smell.

Good storytelling also utilizes sensory detail to bring the listener fully into the story. Being transported into the storyteller’s reality is part of the thrill and enjoyment of participating in the story.

Humans organize our reality through an endless stream of stories we tell ourselves. From “I got up on the wrong side of the bed” to “I am destined to fail, just like my father” to “men/women can’t be trusted” to “I am unworthy” to “life is BEAUTIFUL!” could all be staged with song, dance, and a full screenplay.

What’s fascinating to me is how every story has a certain level of consciousness. If you download my Inner Map, you’ll see what I mean. For example, the popular story “I am unworthy” clearly lines up with Shame. “I am destined to fail, just like my father” might also be at Shame, or might be Frozen Fear. “Life is BEAUTIFUL!” goes way Above the Line, around Joy. And so on.

Once we’re in a certain level of consciousness, interesting things happen. Because, as David Hawkins says, “consciousness is innocent,” the level of consciousness we’re in is the only reality that exists for us. We can barely remember having experiences on the other levels. Then, as we fully inhabit the reality at this level, we build our world around it. We gather evidence that we’re right (if we feel scared we see scary things; if we’re happy, we notice what is wonderful about the world; if we’re ashamed we stack up all the reasons we’re basically flawed). Even more strikingly, the world cooperates with whatever vibe we’re putting out. Our fear of others brings out their scary selves; our view of others as trustworthy makes them want to be worthy of our trust. In other words, we train people to be great co-stars in whatever reality we’re spinning.

Suddenly, the stories we tell ourselves take on great significance. The level of consciousness of the story itself determines the reality we’re inhabiting, the data we’re collecting about our lives, and the roles that others play for us. 

Take a moment to note the major stories that you tell yourself. They may be a bit difficult to unearth, as they may be so familiar that you’ve decided they are just the way the world is (or you are). Notice how much detail you’ve put with the stories over time, what you see, hear, taste, feel, smell when you tell them in your mind. Now, figure out at what level of consciousness each of these stories keep you, how you yourself are hypnotizing yourself into these levels of consciousness.

Would you like to change your stories?


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  • Love this post, Julie. I woke up this morning wondering what life would be like if I weren’t so entrenched in what I “think” life is. All that thinking can be fun, but I see how it can keep me stuck. I recently heard someone explain her current unhappiness like this, “Well, of course I’ll never have long-term love. I’m a Capricorn!” OK then, done deal, you’re stuck, let’s move on!

    Here’s a serious question, Julie: Do we like being victims? Is there something so compelling about our stuck stories that we’re not willing to let them go? Hmmm.

  • julia

    Wellll—YES. Think of any beloved story (I’m remembering how much I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder series), the comfort of being able to revisit the details, how much familiarity–even familiar misery–feels soothing. I believe this is a main challenge for humans, to let go of the past stories that have given us such a sense of our own identity, and to reach for new stories that challenge us with their higher vibration.

  • Stacy Maskell

    I love this post too. I know one thing that I’ve been working on for years and a lot harder since I got sober was letting go of all those stories that have, at least I felt, protected me for years and it’s hard, really hard, but I have seen and experienced the joy of not living those stories for a while and that in and of itself is worth working towards!

  • julia

    Way to go, Stacy!