Stories that Stand in Your Way
I was sitting in a circle with nine other women, all of us applicants for the Bachelor's program in Special Education who had been invited to take an entry exam.
A diminutive woman, hair organised into a neat black bob and a sweet, tender voice explained what we had to do: tell a story about ourselves, presenting ourselves, but in the third person. As if someone else were telling the story about us.
I was sure I would fail this part of the exam.
The high marks I had obtained in other parts of the exam were not going to redeem the meagre performance I gave.
Like a lost stone thrown into a deep lake, I kept on gravitating back to the ‘I’, unable to follow the instruction.
It felt foreign to speak about myself in the third person. The story of the woman I was at that point in my life simply foundered.
For years I wondered why it was that I couldn’t tell a story about myself in the third person. It was only after I started my intense meditation training, twenty years ago, that I found an answer that made sense.
We think of wholeness as a ‘someone’ we recreate after we’ve moved away from what has pained us, but it’s a process of coming together, collecting the tender threads we want to leave behind, that defines our fullness
Despite doing everything I could to stay away from my mother-story, as if unconsciously, I went on to major in Mental Health nonetheless.
We can't try to run away from our story but the integrity of its wholeness will pull us back.
She stood in my way. She represented everything I didn’t want to be—weak, dependant and unreliable, a manipulative and irresponsible liar.
When called upon to tell my story, I excluded her from it. Not the details of what happened and when, but the impact it had on shaping me, the wound that was left in me, the early understanding it gave me about the power of our inner world to define who we are.
When I work with my clients I hold to a question that guides the way I respond to what I’m hearing:
Has the story told been coopted by the persona of what you imagine yourself to be, or is it a story of healing?
The process of coming into wholeness is of coming home to your take on what has happened, feeling you have the right to own your narrative—without excluding the person that hurt you.
There’s a moment in every story where the details about the characters, the situations, the challenges, come together and a message or a gift is given.
When your story feels like a tender thread you walk along that transforms into a spacious sphere you can live in, you can feel more complete.
Whatever tender thread you walk on, when it is witnessed by someone who cares for your essence it becomes as limber as breathing.
Telling stories is not the problem.
We tell ourselves stories we want to believe in all day long, stories we don’t have a choice but to believe are the gospel truth, stories about what should have happened, but none of this is witnessed by someone who can put a stop to the automatic patterning of the ‘I’-creating ego.
I now know how to tell stories about myself in the third person because I have learned how to come close enough, not to the person I don’t want to be, but to the person I am meant to be, moment to moment.
Unwrapping stories of wholeness is one of the central threads in the coaching group I’m starting on Sept 5th.