Is Your Life Based on a True Story?
I always think of summer as a time to see movies. I love sitting in the theater on a hot day, eating popcorn and being transported to some fictional world. Most people love stories and storytellers, but we are easily taken in by them, sometimes we want to believe that their stories are true. In recent years, The Imitation Game, Hidden Figures, and Hacksaw Ridge have all come under fire for being inaccurate portrayals of true stories, but in all three cases, the movies made great stories. So, let’s talk about the storyteller in your head, is it as unreliable as Hollywood?
Inside of our head, we have a voice that is constantly generating stories, it’s part of how we make sense out of our world. If you’re like me you probably have an Unreliable Storyteller inside your head. The Unreliable Storyteller consistently misinterprets events and provides partial, inaccurate or just plain false information. Many of us have great difficulty separating the false narrative from the facts. We continually alter our perception of actual events to maintain our shame storyline. If someone tells us we’ve made a mistake we immediately view all of life through that lens.
A great example of The Unreliable Storyteller can be seen on one of the procedural law T.V. shows when a lawyer examines a witness and twists the facts to suit their own narrative. The witness protests, “That’s not what I meant! That’s not what I said!”
The trouble for us is that we don’t even protest, we just accept the false version we tell ourselves and carry on with our lives. Like the opposing counsel, cross-examining our thoughts, identifying false narratives as they arise, and refuting them is the key. Turning an inquisitive eye to own thinking will begin to diffuse its power.
Notice how the Unreliable Storyteller lurks at the fringes of your habitual thoughts whispering half-truths and unsubstantiated rumors. A great general approach to silence the Unreliable Storyteller is to ask yourself “Is that true?*” and “What evidence do I have that it’s true?” Gradually we will craft a new storyline and approach the Unreliable Storyteller with healthy skepticism.
PS. I found this cool site that evaluates how true recent ‘based on a true story’ recent movies are.
*See Byron Katie’s website for more on asking yourself “Is that true?”