“I can only be your story about me!”
One thing I have learned, as a therapist over 30 years, is that people change, but often our stories about them don’t. We freeze the other into a certain way of behaving, often detrimental, with our stories about them. We also freeze ourself into being a certain way in response to our idea about the other. Meaning we are both frozen in time!
The Ojibway tribe do not noun on each other when describing people, so as to avoid freezing someone into being, but rather respect the complex nature of being as ever changing. Instead they encapsulate their experience of the person, this also applies within their juridical system. For example; instead of naming someone, they speak of how they felt, their experience, and do not add to anothers’ experience of that person.
An Ojibway elder described not “nooning on someone” by saying:
“Those kind of words, have a tendency to stigmatise people, to “freeze” them within a particular classification, making it more difficult for healing to occur.” Ross (1996)
This time of the year we are confronted with our well polished, recycled stories of our family members, yet rarely take the time to enquire into the current reality, just our thinking about reality.
- Have you ever been someones judgemental story about you?
- What was the effect of being frozen into being something, that was not entirely you?
- How did you react to the other?
- How did you know that you were frozen in another persons’ story about you?
Unfreezing the Other
In the same way we unfreeze ourself from shameful stories we unconsciously impose on ourself, we can free others from the outdated stories. Here’s how:
- Be judgemental (Most of the time we pretend not to be, so here is a chance to expose the unconscious recycled story about the other!)
- Write it down (Get that thinking down on paper as it is less likely to be recycled)
- Bring it to enquiry (Ask with your head, and answer with your heart: Is it true? Can I absolutely know this to be true about the other?) From example: “My mother is selfish, demands all the attention with no consideration for others”. Find the truth, look at reality – can you absolutely know that that is her intention, or is it your perception?
“When we apply such labels to real people, they tend to stick. And when they stick, they cause us to start denying the complexity and wholeness of the human beings we are speaking of.” Ross (1996)
- How do you react when you think this thought? (This is where we start to see how entangled in our own web we are)
- How do you treat them when you think this thought about them? (Ok fess up, this is a co-creation remember, with the ego avoiding our part in it due to its lack humbleness).
- How do I treat myself when I think this thought about them? (Remember it takes two to keep the game going)
- Who would I be without this thought? (Are you ready to liberate yourself from being part of this story? Go on imagine who you would be, what would you do, how would you be within yourself and with the other without this frozen story?)
- Turn it Around (So here is the magic – where the story lets go of both of you and we live a kinder reality, meeting it as it is rather than arguing with it). Take the story:
- “My mother is selfish, demands all the attention with no consideration for others” and turn it around to reality (opposite) “My mother is selfless, demands little attention, and considers others” Then ask yourself: Where is that truer than the previous frozen story? See if you can find 3 examples where that is truer.
- Turn it around again: Where am I that with myself? “I am selfish, demand all the attention with no consideration for myself”. Where is that truer? Find 3 examples.
- Turn it around again: How do I do to the other, what I accuse the other of doing to me? “I am selfish, demand all the attention with no consideration for my mum” Where is that truer? Find 3 examples.
Remembering this is not about shaming or blaming yourself or the other, it is simply about meeting a kinder reality than your thinking.
Now when you think of that person how do you view them now? What happened to your role you were playing in relation to your story about them? What changed?
“In my experience thus far, it seems that traditional people see our reliance on judgemental words as a very limiting way to know the world around us, and to deal with the people in it.” Ross (1996)
When we enquire into our thoughts that cause suffering they let go of us and we can become the more of who we really are, we live the depth of complexity.
Give the gift of enquiry this Christmas and unfreeze each other from outdated stories!
The Work of Byron Katie www.thework.com
Ross, Rupert (1996) Returning to the Teachings: Exploring Aboriginal Justice, Penguin Random House, Canada