Last week I had an interaction with someone which upset me. I told myself a story about what had happened, about what it meant, and about how that person clearly felt about me.
The good thing was, after I got upset, I talked it through with a friend. Once I had to recount the “incident” I knew that I was leaping to conclusions without any basis in fact.
(It’s funny how that happens when we say things out loud).
Using her as a sounding board, I realized that I was making up a story; a story which was entirely fabricated.
A work of fiction.
I had presumed that this person’s behavior meant one thing, and when I took a step back I realized that it could have meant any number of things – or more likely, nothing at all.
I like to study people. I try to pay attention to nuances, inflections, body language, word choices, aaand…even punctuation in texts (oh yeah, I’m a real forensic artist).
As I have said before, I find people to be fascinating.
The problem is, it is not always possible to be objective. We often subconsciously default to what we “know” in order to make what we are seeing or hearing fit the narrative in our heads.
We’ve got our story, and we’re sticking to it.
This can obviously be a problem….not to mention it can make us entirely bonkers.
It is interesting to think about this because, I want to say –
What if we treat every encounter with complete open-mindedness?
What if we make no presumptions based on past experiences?
Could we experience every encounter with less judgement? With less inner dialog about the other person’s motives and intentions?
On the flip side, our memory is an important tool. It protects us. Ideally, we learn from our experiences. We file them away and pull them out to help us navigate the world. If we are hurt by a certain person, or a certain set of circumstances, we learn to put up a protective sheath when we encounter them again.
This seems like a healthy thing to do, right?
Just as we learn to use a pot holder when reaching into a hot oven, we learn to protect ourselves from certain experiences or people…lest we get burned.
Our narrative is also strongly influenced by the filter through which we see things…a filter which can be constantly changing. My filter has been a bit dingy lately. This can cause me to put a negative spin on what I see and hear.
The world can be a mirror, and sometimes we don’t like what we see.
Again, this has to do with the stories we are telling ourselves.
Is our story a tragedy? A romance? A comedy?
A little bit of everything depending on the day?
How do we reconcile these thoughts? How do we learn from our experiences, and still stay open to the idea that people and circumstances can change? That things can be different from the stories we tell?
I wish I had a solid answer on this.
I am going to try not to make presumptions….especially when I know I am in a mental space in which my lens could use a new filter.
I am going to try to save the narrative until I am sure of the facts….or maybe skip the narrative altogether.
It’s just a story.