Everyday, we experience and live and relive a story we have written for ourselves. The power of thought and the word is strong. But only as strong as the experience and feelings we attach to it.
That is why it’s hard to be real within ourselves- to know what we have imagined and created that in return has become real within our thought. And those thoughts with feelings are what direct our lives each day.
I came into this world as a storyteller. My tongue was let loose at an early age- around three. I opened my mouth and in the nonsensical way a three-year old talks, I told stories to whoever would listen them. At some point I became entertainment for my mother and aunts. I had a little red mexican chair- you know the ones with thatched seats and flowers painted across the back of the wooden support?
This was my performing chair. Only for me it was just the small chair I sat in to tell the stories a three year old has on her mind. One day (at the usual performance time of entertianing my aunts), my mother asked me to tell a story. I pointed at my red-painted mexican chair and then pointed at the kitchen table. I wanted the chair on a proper stage. They looked at each other in surprise, laughed and promptly placed the chair on the kitchen table- a height where I could see my audience properly!
I never knew that story until about five years ago, but I realize it makes a lot of sense of who I am today. I love to create and tell stories-orally and on paper.
Stories help us escape. They help us understand or make sense of things that we can’t make sense of. Stories help us with tragic events or big changes in our lives. They help us to put our confusion and questions in a bigger perpsective.
Oral storytelling has been with us since the beginning of man. Stories connect us-make us human. When there is some cataclysmic event, it it the human stories that give context to the tragedies that follow. Oral storytelling is now in the form of a large billion dollar industry called the movies. We see it on technicolor, three-dimensional and larger than life screens. Even in hard financial times, people flock to see the movies. They need the distraction, the inspiration and the connection.
When we hear a story or see a movie, we know real from imaginary.
I remember when my oldest child was about six years old. Star Wars and ET had both arrived at the movies ten years prior and was not on VHS tapes. I was careful about what I allowed her to watch in our home. She watched a little of Star Wars and liked it and had no problem understanding it was imaginary.
I also let her watch ET. Big Mistake. Jabba the Hut didn’t make her flinch a bit, but to this day if you point your index finger at her (now a grown woman) and say “E.T.” she shivers. What is the difference between the two? E.T. was cute and adorable. Young Drew Barrymore dressed him up as her play pal!
The difference for my daughter was that she saw E.T. in Drew Barrymore’s closet, and because she had a closet in her bedroom, it felt akin to the proverbial boogeyman in the closet. It felt real. Her experience and imagination made it real.
Jabba the Hut was not in anyone’s closet. He was removed from the real of my young daughter’s life. He was just a disgusting, blubbery creature that momentarily was holding Princess Leia hostage-Not real.
What point am I trying to make? It is what impresses us (especially as young, sponge-like children) as real in the moment and how we translate it into a real story.
What’s more dangerous than imagining alien creatures in your closet? Not knowing the real from the imaginary in your mind. They are called LIES! Our minds may recognize in a rational way that the old stories we keep experiencing are not real, but if those stories came at a time of trauma or caused a rift in our normal development, they are powerful and deadly. They are the stories in the dark closets or our mind that feel as real as E.T. felt to my daughter.
What’s even more insidious and less obvious than a Jabba the Hut in our psyche is the stories connected to the experience are hidden to our consciousness. We don’t know why what someone says, or what triggers an event where the experience feels real. There is even a term for when you re-experience it. Ekert Tolle calls it Body-Pain. Our bodies even react to certains triggers and we feel the anxiety, or fear or woundedness in our bodies. Much like my daughter’s unfounded fears are triggered with the finger pointing and saying. ‘E.T.”
Panic attacks are symptoms of stories gone deep within the psyche. Post Tramatic Stress Syndrome is another example. The list goes on and on.
How do we stop the imaginary stories that trigger us and cause us such mental pain? It begins with finding the story and the belief behind it. Then it’s breaking the neural pathway pattern it has made in our brains for so long. We are more comfortable with the familiar uncomfortable.
In my own life, I suffered severe childhood trauma. The events were real and they caused stories that only hard work and supportive healers have helped me unravel. I also believe that my ability to create imaginary stories was a way for me to soothe myself and step out of the real horror I was living. Books were my friends- as many stories as I could get my hands on led me to another world of imagination, of courage and good endings. Stories gave me hope of something better.
And in creating the good stories, I have also stopped the bad stories, the lies created by my experience, giving them a final ending. They have been dragged out of the dark closets and exposed to the light. And I have had to listen to the child who experienced them.
I have had to draw her out and cause her to feel safe again. Tell her new stories, of how she is loved, of how she has all the support she needs. I am grateful for my gift of stories, for new words that support, and the ability to create real and imaginary stories for myself and others.