Stories. I love ’em and can’t live without ’em. But they also make my life hellish, if I’m not careful.
Today was day two of this migraine-like sinus headache. I don’t get these often, but when I do, they are a doozy. They come complete with nausea and severe sensitivities to noise and scents to go along with the pain in my head. So I took a sick day and stayed home where I could limit my movement (and noise and odors) to control the nausea. I spent the day on the couch crocheting, which requires very little motion except in my hands.
It also meant a day that allowed my mind to roam, and when it’s allowed time to roam free, it tells stories. And especially when I’m not feeling well, my mind can come up with some pretty depressing stories!
I would check email every now and again today as a way of giving my hands a rest from crocheting, and I received a few emails that annoyed me a bit. It was interesting to watch what my mind did with those annoyances as I returned to crocheting. It spun story after story about the contents of the emails (or the intentions of the senders) that became more negative with each round, leaving me feeling more annoyed, resentful, angry, frustrated, and depressed each time.
Fortunately having the day at home alone with little distraction also gave me plenty of time and focus to observe this as it happened. I watched the stories that my mind was creating, recognized them to be nothing more than stores, and watched my emotional reactions to the stories. It was quite obvious that my mind was not doing me any favors in its storytelling services, and noticing that made it possible for me to stay unattached to the stories it was spinning in my head.
The most interesting thing that I noticed, though, was that all of these stories that were so upsetting to me were about situations where I felt like I had in some way been treated unfairly or badly by someone else and I had not done anything to stand up for myself. Rather than focusing on ways that I could politely and professionally request better treatment in the future, my stories all focused on how awful I was being treated (in highly exaggerated terms) and how it would just lead to worse and worse treatment in the future that I could do nothing about.
I know that I’m not very good at standing up for myself, but I thought it was interesting that my stories all seemed to revolve around the idea that I shouldn’t even bother trying because there was nothing that I could do that wouldn’t make the situations worse. No wonder I find it difficult to request better treatment!
So my stories not only make me feel bad, they cause me to continually victimize myself by discouraging me from setting and communicating appropriate boundaries. That was very interesting for me to observe. I think it’s time to teach the storyteller in my head some new stories—stories that involve positive outcomes from appropriate boundary setting on my part.
Who knew a migraine-like headache could be so productive?
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