History, Herstory, Yourstory

Who doesn’t like a good story? Humans are story tellers by nature. We’ve been doing it a long time. On cave walls, humans painted stories at least 30,000 years ago. Before there was writing, people told stories in song and poetry. After writing, we developed history and literature and we had permanent stories.  Now we have the news. Sometimes the news doesn’t fulfill the need for completion that comes in a good story, so we have conspiracy theories that explain the mysteries that remain.

Stories make sense of the world. Without a good story, a horde of Greeks would have trashed the city of Troy, but nobody would have remembered. Troy would have faded from memory as did thousands of other ancient cities that were burned. But Homer had a story to tell that involved romance, scandal, heroes, danger, trickery and conquest. The Iliad was such a good story that it produced the first sequels that we know of. The story made sense of extremely disturbing happenings.

Sometimes, we call stories myths. Usually, the term is used to refer to stories attached to someone else’s religion.

When the story is our own, we may not notice that it is a story at all. It is our life. But we need to have a story. We need to be able to explain to ourselves how we got to be who we are. We lived with certain people and they treated us a certain way, and because of that we did certain things. We had consequences to the things we did, or we didn’t have apparent consequences, and those events helped form our character. To know ourselves, which we must do to develop, we need to know the story that we have told ourselves. That doesn’t mean we need to make one up. It means we need to recognize that we have created our own myth and that we are giving meaning to our life through it. Or perhaps the story is telling us that there is no meaning in our lives. That’s when it is even more important to recognize the story.


Recognize your story. Think about your story. What do you tell yourself about what has happened in your life? Are there heroes and villains? Tragedy? Triumph? Humor? Is this an exciting story or does it seem dull? Are there things in your story that you would like to change? You might want to write the story. You might also make a timeline of events you consider important and notice the emotions that are attached to those events.

Different Activity:

Break loose from the story. Recognize that you possess the human trait of making stories. The story will explain that things that happen to you are because of something or other. To some extent, you’ve figured out the way the world works and your place in it. The story may be simple or complex. You’ve developed beliefs about who you are and who other people are and the way the world works. Try, for a little while,  to stop doing that. For a few minutes, or a few hours, seek to be mindful of your experience without creating a story about it. Observe your experience without attributing motives, placing blame, labeling yourself or others as heroes or villains. Take out, for a while, the winning and losing. Just notice what it is to be, to experience without interpretation. 

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© 2009 Tom Barrett