Stories that hurt and stories that heal: what story are you telling?

Posted on: June 24, 2013

Last Sunday I was invited onto BBC Radio London to review the newspapers. After I’d said yes I reflected that I rarely read newspapers these days because it often leaves me feeling overwhelmed and less optimistic about the world so I prefer to keep up with the news in other ways.   As humans we live by stories and when we get into conflict with others we then create a “story” about “what happened”, which we tell over and over again until in our minds it becomes the truth rather than just our perspective on events. I often remind people in mediation that we all “join up the dots” in different ways and our stories are just one way of looking at things, influenced by the incomplete information we have and our pre-existing attitudes to life.

The next time you find yourself feeling aggrieved by someone’s behaviour, take a moment to notice what “story” you are telling about this event.  Is it a Victim story?  Clues are themes such as “I’ve been mistreated”, “It’s not fair and there’s nothing I can do about it”, “Life is a struggle” or “It’s a conspiracy”.   Typically, these will be underlying themes in the way that news is reported in the media.

Play with turning this into a Hero(ine) story.   Take the perspective that you are the Hero(ine) of your own life and you are telling the story of how you handled a challenge in your life resourcefully.  How were you courageous? Insightful? Creative?

My favourite story from the news was that of the mosque in York which got wind of an English Defence League march against them.  They responded by organising a traditional English tea party and found a football for a kickabout. The protesters arrived to be greeted with an offer of tea and cake and a game of football. Initially a bit confused, after some conversation the protesters accepted a cup of tea and joined in the game.

I love this story because it shows a creative, playful and courageous response to a potentially frightening situation, which ends in building relationship and reducing fear and distrust.   Stories like this deserve to be emulated and retold.

My challenge for the radio was to find the seeds of positivity in all the stories, whether it be people power in Brazil or using dialogue in the NHS to create a culture of openness rather than secrecy and cover up.  We cannot always choose what happens to us, but we always have a choice in how we respond to it.  Notice what stories you are telling.