Over time, as we have experiences of the world and learn from others, we pick up stories or beliefs about the world. Our stories are self-reinforcing. We filter out sensory information that doesn’t correspond. This is right in the brain mechanism – current input is compared to memory before it even becomes conscious. So new experiences tend to continue to reinforce the old and they tend to get stronger with age. This is perfectly normal and mostly sub-conscious. It is how we function in the world and become better drivers, workers, and lovers.
Without our stories, we would be seriously handicapped. In fact, we would not be able to make sense of our sensory experiences. They would be a jumble of data, much as a newborn sees the world, or a toddler sees the alphabet.
The problem arises when we use stories to resist or deny what is here. Or when we sustain a belief that was once true but no longer serves us. This puts us out of sync with the world and leads directly to suffering.
When we pay attention to how we’re responding to life, then we can be more conscious about the stories or beliefs we’re running. Listen to the stories we tell others. Is it true? Really? Or are we telling a fish story that grows in time? And the more we tell it, the more we believe it because telling it helps make it more real. Ask yourself – how is this story serving you?
At first, you’ll mostly catch yourself after the fact, after the story is told. Then, you’ll notice during, perhaps because of the emotional tone you feel. You begin to recognize the process. Finally, you’ll recognize the story as it arises, by its emotional signature, and you can choose to drop it. Then, in resolving the emotion, the belief loses its substance.
Note this isn’t an intellectual exercise. We can’t fix a story with another story, although we might be able to obscure it. Many of us have layered stories, stories to account for or justify other stories. It is this tendency that makes the process of unwinding more complex, like peeling an onion.
Because our resisting beliefs create energy blockages and restrict flow, over time they cause us discomfort and eventually disease. As Rev. Mary Hennessey said “what you don’t heal will eat you from the inside.” They also put us out of sync with the world, leading to more bumps in our journey. Thus this is not an idle issue.
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