Most of the stories we have out ourselves and the world around us have root in our families of origin.  Some of these stories are good and help us build meaning in our lives.  Then there are the negative stories that we struggle with until we learn to rewrite them.  This time of year when we are spending more time with our created families and possibly our family of origin, it is common for our stories to get triggered.

The reality may not be as pretty as the photos we post online.


Spending time with family can be a partially difficult time to have unacknowledged stories.  I am fortunate enough to still have a great aunt who is living and she lives near me.  She doesn’t mean to be hurtful, but she can be pretty critical.  Not just of me but of everyone.  She is critical of athletes, politicians, family members – everyone.  Over the years, I have learned not to bother trying to convince or change her mind on anything, whenever possible I hold my tongue and just nod.  That doesn’t mean that some of her zingers never impact me.  They often do.

Romantic relationships

Our romantic relationships are where a lot of our stories play out.  When stressed at work, your partner may hold in all their frustration during the day only to come home to you and be a jerk with you.  Leaving you to wonder if they just had a bad day or if your relationship is not as strong as you had once thought.

Additionally, we grow up with stories of what a happy couple and family looks like and if our partner doesn’t live up to those, we can start to slip into some bad relationship habits that can become corrosive to the connection over time.  

Negative sentiment override

Negative sentiment override is a term that means that trust has been damaged in the relationship and it is impacting how you interpret the actions of your partner.  The trust can be broken unwittingly by not going along with our story of how relationships are supposed to work.   And before we know it, our relationship problems are compounding.  Click HERE to take a quiz and see if you are currently in negative sentiment override.

What to do with our stories...

It's normal to have them but you cannot address what you do not acknowledge. This takes some ownership and vulnerably on your part to examine what you could be doing to contribute to your own discomfort. It is easy to lay blame with your family member or partner, it is brave to think about what you bring to the table.

For example, part of the reason my great aunt hurts my feelings is because I have a story that elderly people are sweet and loving. Her criticism is hurtful because I want her to accept me as I am. Part of her story is that there is a right and a wrong way to live your life. Knowing that we both bring different needs to our interactions doesn't make her comments less hurtful but it makes it easiER to move on and let them go.

As always, I’m here.  If you are ready to live your best life, call me and let’s get started!

We all do it. When decide that our morning meeting or drive home or visit to the grocery store is going to go a certain way and we get upset when it does not go as planned.  Each of us carries around a lot of stories, some good, some bad.  We have stories about what it was like growing up with the family we had, a story about ourselves in our careers – what we’ve accomplished and where we are headed.  These stories are the amalgamation of how we remember, believe and feel.  They are not facts.

Self-fulfilling prophesy 

One way our stories show up for us, is when we decide how an experience will go before it even takes place.  When we decide we will have a bad day at work, we often do.  When we are anticipating that someone will hurt our feelings or let us down, they often do.  Is that because we are just so fantastic at predicting?  Or because we are looking for justifications or ways to make our stories come true?  If we wait long enough, we will find a problem, a complaint or an issue.  If you aren’t looking for them, it is just as easy to miss good points in the story as well.

The brain

Our brains are built to avoid pain and seek pleasure.  As a result, our brains create these stories for us.  It’s a way to try and predict and control the outcome so that we can get what we want.  But it happens so quickly and subtly, we often don't even notice we have done it.

Have ever read a text or an email quickly and gotten upset about it, only to re-read it later only to realize you had completely misread or filled in the blanks? We do this all day and often don't realize it. Most of these stories are not that big of a deal and can occasionally even benefit us because they help us make decisions quickly.

The problems come when we tell ourselves stories that do not serve us. Stories like our partner "always" lets us down or we aren't capable of achieving certain kinds of goals. Those kinds of stories cause stress and anxiety and often lead us to make choices we wouldn't make otherwise.

Sticks and stones

This time of year when we spend time with our families and even when we don't intend to, we end up bringing our stories with us.

The two main ways these stories tend to show up with our families is when we decide an interaction is going to be painful before we get there and by filling in the blanks of what people say to us.

Getting upset about it in advance of an interaction is about your story. That's all. And there irony is that being upset when you get there often, makes it more difficult to avoid the pain that you are anticipating. So how do you calm down? First, acknowledge to yourself what the story is and what it's about. Second, do something to calm down (a breathing exercise, meditation, run, whatever). Next, think about what is the worst thing that could happen if you're right? Often, we know what we would do. Finally, remind yourself that you have no idea what could happen.

The other common family trigger is filling in the blanks of what we think "they really mean."

"Because we are afraid to ask for clarification, we make assumptions, and believe we are right about these assumptions; then we defend our assumptions and try to make someone else wrong. It is always better to ask questions than to make an assumption, because assumptions set us up for suffering."

"The Four Agreements" by Ruiz

When possible, stay curious. If you think someone meant or implied something they didn't actually say, ask them. Best case scenario you're wrong. Worst case, you get confirmation and you can make a reasonable choice based on all the facts instead of assumptions.

As always, I’m here.  If you are ready to live your best life, call me and let’s get started!

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