Painting The Story
I’ve done it. Have you? We are very adept at being victims. In order to justify our being victimized, we do not deal with the facts but we paint our story.
“He made me mad.” “She pushes my buttons.” “They….” Then comes our response. Our emotional response. Our explanation for that response is not based on the facts but on our emotions. Emotions don’t just settle upon us. They are not foisted on us by others. The truth is others don’t make us mad. We make ourselves mad. We create our emotions. When we do we can act on them or be acted on by them. We can master them or fall hostage to them.
When we respond with the victim mindset, We assume that is the only response. That it is right and reasonable under the circumstances. We treat that response as valid, justified, and accurate. Usually there is a corresponding behavior that follows. And it is usually the wrong one. We become captive to our emotions.
Another option is to master our emotions. Instead of letting our emotions act on us, we act on our emotions. In other words, think them out. Choose our emotions, therefore creating a different attitude and corresponding behavior with better results.
See, we tell ourselves a story. We believe the story and then we feel. We also add judgment, good or bad. Then we respond. Stories tell what is going on. They are our interpretations of the facts. They explain what we see and hear. They are the theories that explain the why, how, and what. Of course, we come up with our own meaning of our stories. Then the feelings drive our response. Even if we don’t realize it, we are telling ourselves stories. Any set of facts can be used to tell stories. But stories are just stories. If we take control of our stories, they won’t control us. When we control our stories we control how we feel and act.
For example, parents and teens often have conflict. The teen knows how to push the buttons. The parent responds in like manner. The story the teen configures is their parents are trying to rob them of some of their independence. They are sure their parents wake up every morning asking, “How can I make my child’s life miserable today?” The teen will say, “Don’t you trust me?” See, they have painted a story in their mind that justifies their defensive posture. They have taken the facts and woven the story so that their parents are the bad persons.
Then, the parent takes and paints the story so that the teen is always rebellious and disrespectful. Corresponding punishment then follows.
Somewhere, in the midst of the conflict, the facts are lost. Both are responding to their story, which is being controlled by emotions. Words are said, such as “I hate you.” Response comes from judgments.
Will anyone stop the fabrication? Stop and repaint the story with the facts. Get control of the story instead of the story controlling each one. Hit the pause button, retrace the path, slow down the adrenaline, and notice your behavior. Is there another response that will be more effective than playing the victim? What facts are we reasoning from? Are my emotions telling the story or are the facts? It is easy to confuse the subjective feelings for the hard stubborn facts. Ask, “What is my role in this conflict? What do we really want? What would we do right now to get that result?”
Perhaps the story is not what we thought at all. Maybe our presumptions are completely inaccurate. Maybe the person with whom we felt victimized did not intend or even think of the offense in those terms. When we hurt it is hard to see anything else.