What stories are you telling yourself today?

Monica Magureanu
Written by Monica Magureanu

Stories?! Who has time for that these days? We only read them when the children ask us to. Otherwise, we use modern technology, we watch movies or YouTube, we hang out or read novels.

Well, we tell ourselves stories, consciously or not, but we don’t call them stories anymore. Usually, the adult story begins with I Believe… Perhaps our story is a belief about life, about love, about relationships, a belief most probably rooted in the first years of life, what some authors, such as Jaques Salome and Sylvie Galland, call personal mythology. These beliefs or stories that we tell ourselves sometimes act as a blockage in our daily relationships. Working consciously to identify our own beliefs, understanding and integrating them, can be a source of overcoming what we thought our limitations to be.

Our reactions to facts, events, to the spoken and the unspoken are rather related to the interpretation we give them than to the situation itself. And here the stories come into play. Either they are reactive beliefs, as J. Salome and S. Galland call them, born of our emotional needs, or are imaginary, as in the way we position ourselves in the world, what Jung called the persona, but which can be very different from the way that others perceive us. There might be beliefs about justice or injustice, about what is good or bad but no matter the belief it is our interpretation that gives rise to the story according to which we choose our words, deeds and actions.

I traveled though life up to a point holding the belief that if I identify the roots, the causes of a problematic behavior I will be able to fix it. All my energy and determination were in the service of “fixing” myself, I even chose for one of my companies a slogan saying “We do not have problems, we have solutions”. What about that?!

First of all. I must say it helped but it also made it so difficult because I didn’t realise how much I judged myself in the process, how much I was acting in the present moment from my own interpretation of the past, blaming myself and trying to compensate for being someone who needed to be fixed.

Compassionate Inquiry®

I was lucky to meet Dr. Gabor Maté and study Compassionate Inquiry®, a therapeutic approach designed to surface what lies beyond the story we present to the world. And there it was my aha moment when Gabor told us about the “stupid friend”. I realised the belief beyond all my actions, beyond my eagerness to solve, at the roots of my 40+ built in personality was that “I am not good enough”. That core belief that one way or another I tried to fight, to get rid of, was actually an old friend that when I was very little saved me.

Children, especially up to 3-4 years old, develop their sense of self-worth through parent mirroring which should involve accurate reflection of a child’s expressed thoughts and feelings. When authentic mirroring is lacking the child will unconsciously compensate with increased efforts to be OK. In my experience lack of mirroring would have translated as “I am not loved” which is an adult thought and brings an unbearable emotion for the child. So, my “stupid friend” came up with a saving strategy that developed during the years – it’s not that they do not love you, you are not enough yet to be loved. Therefore, there was room for love but I had to act out to get it.

That is how my personality started to shape – at school I had to be an “A” pupil cause like this they will love me. In my work I had to be the best for them to love me. In my relationship the same but nothing was permanent because I was lacking my own validation and compassion towards myself.

I learned with Compassionate Inquiry® to thank my friend and to provide space for the emotions associated with when he shows up, to tell him I understand what he did, to tell him I am grateful but I’m not 3 anymore and I’m there for him to acknowledge and find something else to do. In other words, I stopped trying to fix him and I found myself in peace with who I am, reacting from a space of calmness rather than from the belief that I am not good enough.

Georges Colleuil and Interdictions

Another way of looking at beliefs is through the work of Georges Colleuil who introduces in the Referential Birth Chart method the idea of interdictions, conscious or unconscious, which act and capture the sometimes-limiting tendency of our beliefs. And what lies behind an interdiction? A fear… Fear of being hurt, of failing, of disappointing, of being judged or abandoned, to name just a few, can generate the conviction that if we forbid that (conscious) behavior, if we avoid those situations or events, we will be protected.

Sometimes interdictions are built in the first years of life, unconscious parental programs, and end up shaping the whole personality of the individual.

“You will be a doctor, like your mother, grandmother and great-grandmother…” Well, if the person wants to be a doctor, we are in a story with a happy ending. But what happens when the individual feels the artist’s call… “I want to be an actor, to play on stage….” Here it depends on what beliefs were created based on what the parents, with good intentions, transmitted to the person in question. If the individual has created the belief that only by respecting the parents’ plan, will he receive the recognition and affection he needs, he will deeply feel this gap between the parental and the personal project. Maybe he will rebel, maybe he will go to medical school but he will drop out of school, or maybe he will become a successful doctor and get to work the deep feeling of emptiness, absence and lack that he will meet one summer day after completing a complicated heart transplant.

The first step to consciously work on individual development, overcome limiting beliefs, escalate interdictions and turn them into opportunities is to accept that they exist. Then, being gentle with ourselves, guided by our intuition or by a trusted adviser, we can consciously rewrite the story of our encounter with ourselves.

In one’s own shadow, the most wonderful meetings take place.

J. Salome & S. Galland

An exercise of imagination – I suggest you set a meeting with yourself, and maybe, if you feel inspired, write down what would you ask yourself at your first meeting. Come back in a few days and answer the questions quietly, without the pressure of time and reflect:

  • Who answered? You? Your parents? Your partner? Your colleague or hierarchical superior?
  • And if you had no restrictions, no material, emotional or any kind of constraints, if the answers are anonymous…what would you really answer?