CREATING AN AUTHENTIC LIFE
The Storyteller and the Tale of Self
Our mind believes what we tell it—
and thus our story begins.
Many of us wonder why we continue to live the lives we have fallen into. If we were obedient children, we followed the societal rules laid out for us by our parents, community, schools, and peers. To be different would be risky; it was much easier to just go along—become part of mainstream society. Those who wanted to be different but weren’t strong enough to fight the others may have wound up living a life of internal anger and depression. Those who were strong enough to dare to be different may have wound up feeling that they didn’t belong, living as outcasts and exiles. Either way, we are all lost in the “tale” we have created for ourselves. Each of our tales has a prevalent theme that guides our behavior in a cycle of success or failure. For all of us the theme of our tale often encourages us to conceal or disguise our real selves. We become the storyteller of our own lives relating a tale about ourselves. Now we must unravel our tale to become who we are.
The tale a person tells to him or her self and acts out for others guides his or her behavior, choices, dreams and hopes. Unfortunately, some tales narrow choices, promote the repetition of counterproductive themes, and force the individual to maintain the predominant role determined by the tale. The tale drives the individual, making him or her victim to the tale rather than in control of the tale as author and storyteller.
There is tremendous power in uncovering your real tale—that is who you really are. Once concealment is removed a resulting opportunity or freedom allows one to become the author of his or her tale. Being able to direct the tale rather than being directed by it is the essence of choice. Refusing to play an undesirable role in someone else’s story permits the individual to construct his or her own life in a way that is authentic for them.
Uncovering the real you is a difficult task. Children learn about whom they should be early in their lives. Such dictated roles are used as protection, a way of facing a world that demands certain behaviors and a way of being to survive. Some obey and conform to expected behaviors so that those around them cannot tell how frightened, lonely, and alienated they feel. As time passes, what is underneath these behaviors becomes less and less available to the individual; as a result, a tale is created that lacks possibilities for change. The person’s life is lived through dictated behaviors, not from an authentic place within. For some, the tale simply limits his or her opportunity for optimum health, while for others being stuck in a counterproductive story leads him or her to unproductive behaviors. It is important that individuals recognize that their tale can be changed, and that they are capable of creating their tale in new and different ways.
The tale that parents and children bring with them can come together in ways that promote more risk. Parents, stuck in their own tale, may impose their own tale on their children. They then may blame their children (or spouses) for their own failures, or may refuse to deal with those whose tales remind them too much of their own. Some parents may without realizing ask their children to live out their tale for them. The parent or child then may become angry and reject those who cannot meet their personal need for success or control. Some stories of parents and children work well together. The parent, once in touch with his or her own tale, has the potential to assist his or her child to find their own voice and become the author of their own tale, thus reducing dictated behaviors and support their potential.
In looking at our own tales, we recognize the power of the individual in our lives and the freedom to be achieved when we can become our real self. Our dictated roles are used throughout childhood and well into our adult years. We may project confidence and control to others; or project inadequacy and self-depreciation. For instance, if one does not do something well it is only because he or she doesn’t care, not because he or she did not know how. Your behavior also informs others in your world that you are secure in what you want and that no one is going to tell you what to do. However, underneath may be feelings of insecurity, failure, and the belief that one is not smart enough. We are all caught in a tale that has to do with prevalent societal and family expectations of the time we were growing up. Some of us work hard not to submit to what we consider someone else’s beliefs or instructions for our behavior that may include being an obedient child—male or female, marriage and children, and a career that is acceptable to the prevalent society or secondary to your husbands. Many of our choices are the result of the messages we have received from others and internalized for ourselves.
We all have a tale we tell about ourselves. Language, imagery and memory shape the tale over time. Some individuals see themselves as the author of the tale while others perceive themselves as victims. A listener also shapes a person’s tale—telling a story about the tale he or she has heard. The story someone tells us about ourselves becomes linked with the tale we tell ourselves. Certain aspects of the tale stay consistent over time. They get told over and over again and become for the teller the truth, the absolute reality. The construction of the tale is made up of bits and pieces of connections, which when strung together seem like continuous events. Some of these connections, if disconnected, would appear illogical but to the teller there is logic and substance. It is rare that the teller challenges his own construction. The brain forges these connections in such a way that they become linked. The appearance of truth becomes truth. Because of this, it is rare that individuals’ challenge the construction of their tale. The tale becomes the reality; the focal point of how each one of us lives our life. The reality that dwells in our minds affects the physical reality that we see and touch.
What the teller chooses to tell repeatedly is significant. It defines, in many ways how the person behaves in the world. It is the drama and the person is the prime actor. The actor accepts behaviors that support his or her drama and these behaviors become what interact with the world. What lies behind these obvious behaviors over time may become unavailable to the actor without assistance.
When a person's tale is fraught with defeat, feelings of unworthiness, victimization, and so on it is probable that the person will act as their old messages dictate, confirming the tale as reality. The possibilities for other behaviors and other tales become lost—with the individual seeking out those who validate their tale. Life becomes a set of defined instructions, with you as the actor performing your role to meet your own expectations.
Those considered at-risk for personal failure are often those whose tales guide them in counterproductive ways. These tales are often filled with negativity, hopelessness and a profound sense of not being able to influence the direction of their lives. There is little indication that these individuals see other possibilities to the drama they have created.
What happens to those who are literally stuck in their tale? When we tell our tale there is a psychological distance between the events in the tale and the present. This distance provides a space for examining the tale for content, patterns, and misconnections. With a more objective view, can the tale be written differently? Can the tale become a story with multiple possibilities for outcomes? What happens to those whose tales have no voice? Who validates and challenges these tales? What is the effect on the individual if there is no validation or challenge? Does this only add to the potential for being stuck? If a tale has no voice, it is likely the individual’s feelings of alienation and powerlessness will increase. What if those considered at-risk changed their tale? What would make it possible for these individuals to uncover their own tales and look behind who they have become? What if in doing so they were able to begin re-writing their tale? What happens when the authority figure has a story that interfaces with the individual’s tale in such a way to promote more insecurity? Can these tales come together to build reality?
This book addresses the power of the person’s tale—for the teller and the listener. Through the examination of the interplay of the tale, space becomes available for building comfort or creating risk. To create tales to guide individuals towards success, he or she needs to understand their own tale as well as the story others tell about them. The tale guides behavior by fueling prejudices, feelings of failure or efficacy. The individual's learned behavior becomes the characteristic way of relating—the cover for what lies beyond.
Each tale in this book deals with a different aspect of the dance between the individual's story and reality. All the tales in this book are fictional, although some are based on fact or the author’s observations. The tales depicted in the book present the basis for discussion in the analysis of the tale by the reader. To assist the reader in such an analysis, suggested questions or points to ponder are presented after each tale. Through analyzing these tales the reader should get a better understanding of their own tale as well as what they desire to change to move toward the life they have always wanted.
When reading and analyzing each of the tales in this book, pay particular attention to the turning points and life determining decisions affecting the course of the life and story of the subjects depicted in the narrative. Turning points are those places in our life where there are more than one route to take but the route taken has an impact on the remainder of our lives. Examples of such turning points include who your parents are (especially if you are adopted), where you live, the school you attended, your peer group, your ethnic group, your religious affiliation or not, and so on. Life determining decisions are those decisions that you make that have a lasting affect on your life. Examples of such life determining decisions include choosing your friends, taking school seriously, going to college, deciding who to marry, having children, choosing a field of work and who to work for, where to live, and so on.
You might ask whether we are all doomed to live as frauds in exile to the life we really want for ourselves. Hopefully, the tales in this book can help show the way others have been buried in a tale, and how they got there, and provide some insights as to how one might dig him or her self out from a tale that they find undesirable and suffocating or how to increase the benefits of a tale that is working for them—in both cases helping the individual to become the I that they want to be.