You set up your own autopilot by telling yourself stories about what you encounter in the world. Making up stories is completely natural part of being human. Believing those stories is what causes problems. Getting committed to the stories is even more difficult to deal with. Once you have made up a story that seems to make sense, it does not occur to you that another story might describe your situation more accurately.
Listening to the stories you tell yourself is one of the ways you can discover where your energy is stuck.
You start creating stories almost as soon as you learn to talk. One problem with that is the resources you have to explain the world to yourself when you are a preschooler are very limited. Your brain is developing and sees everything very concretely. Since your sense of your own power is very over-rated, you often take personal credit or blame for causing situations that, in reality, are completely beyond your control.
This Story Led to Toxic Stress
Emily created a story as a child that influenced her entire life. Just imagine this scene and you will understand how easy it is to do.
Four-year-old Emily is angry at her mother and yells, “You’re a bad mommy!” Mother, pregnant, frustrated and exhausted herself, snaps back, “Be quiet, you are giving me a headache!” (I know that is not good parenting, but unfortunately it is all too common.)
Later when mother has severe morning sickness, Emily is scared because she knows that something is very wrong but does not understand what it is. Her immature mind figures out that if she can give mother a headache, she must be responsible for this problem too. After all, she still thinks angry thoughts when things don’t go her way.
Emily tells herself this story: “I’m a bad girl because I made mommy sick.” She then decides that from now on, she should be good and not make any demands or complaints and essentially freezes the exuberant, demanding, alive part of herself.
As a responsible and successful grownup woman, Emily has long since forgotten that she once created this story, but the story she now tells herself is about how much she is supposed to be doing. She exhausts herself by trying to take care of everything and everyone around her. She feels stressed and anxious about managing all the demands of her busy life.
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