The Stories We Tell
As part of our monthly theme of Awakening through Story, enjoy this thought provoking and inspiring article from Practitioner Gary Takesian. The Stories We Tell ~ Consciously applying the Law of Attraction
The Stories We Tell
by Gary Takesian, RScP
“If we really want to change our life experience, we must first change the stories we tell.” I put this forth as an adaptation of the Science of Mind motto, “Change your thinking, change your life.” It came to me as I considered the teachings on the Law of Attraction from both Ernest Holmes, and Abraham (as brought forth by Esther Hicks). Both teach that the Law of Attraction brings to us that which makes up the dominant focus of our attention; and that once we understand it, we can use it to affect positive changes in our lives. But one idea that Abraham offered particularly resonated with me, and I think it has real value for those of us who follow the path of New Thought. Abraham said, “You cannot expect to achieve the results you desire by thinking new thoughts while telling the same old story.”
The more I considered this idea of telling the same old story I began to realize why I sometimes failed to achieve the results I desired, in spite of my best efforts at thinking new and positive thoughts. After clearly visualizing what I wanted – usually in vivid detail – I would often unwittingly sabotage my desire by focusing more on the current conditions, rather than the outcome I wanted. Both in my own thinking and in my sharing with others, my “story” centered around the problem, not the solution.
What I have come to understand is that when we talk about the Law of Attraction we must consider the broader mental environment of our thinking, not just the individual thoughts themselves. In Creative Mind and Success Ernest Holmes supports this idea where he writes, “Every person is surrounded by a thought atmosphere. This mental atmosphere is the direct result of thought, which in turn becomes the direct reason for the cause of that which comes into our lives.” Simply put, our individual thoughts nestled in within a supportive mental environment, initiate the creative process.
Expanding on what Abraham said, by looking at how we think and interact with the world around us through the lens of stories and storytelling, I believe we can gain practical insights into why life unfolds for us way it does, and how we might go about making positive changes. Understanding the impact of the stories we tell ourselves and others can give us the tools to effectively make those changes in our thinking that will ultimately produce the results we seek.
First, we must recognize that in essence, we are all storytellers. We love stories – from novels, plays, and movies, to parables, fables and jokes. And we love sharing our stories with one another, whether it’s the latest news about something that happened at work, or an accounting of our recent week-end getaway. Some of us do it professionally as authors, journalists, screenwriters, and the like. But for most of us, our practice of storytelling is such an integral part of our daily lives that we are scarcely aware of it as such. Whenever we share an instance of any part of our lives with someone else we are telling a story about that particular situation. Likewise, when we ponder a recent experience and mull over the events and how we feel about them, we are telling ourselves a new or modified story about what happened or what we wish had happened.
Over the course of our lives we tell countless stories of our life experience to others, and most importantly, to ourselves. Over time, these individual life stories become threads in a vast mental tapestry of interwoven stories that make up our mental environment. Embedded within in our stories are all the beliefs, feelings and opinions we carry around with us, which in turn color and shape our interpretation of life’s events. As we encounter each new life experience, we assign meaning to the experience based on the accumulated beliefs within the story-threads that make up our mental tapestry. Operating outside our immediate awareness, our mental tapestry subtlety and profoundly informs where we are going in our lives and what we believe we are capable of achieving. It literally governs what we accept as possible and impossible for us.
Our mental tapestry, and the stories it contains, becomes the incubator for our creativity. It provides the fertile ground for the seeds of our intentions to grow and manifest into that which we desire. And that which we desire has little chance of coming to fruition if it is inconsistent with what we believe to be true about ourselves. Ernest Holmes refers to this relationship between our desires and our mental tapestry as the Law of Mental Equivalents: that of holding a clear mental picture of what we desire – which is both consistent with who we believe ourselves to be, and in harmony with our current life experience.
This mental view of who we believe ourselves to be is what psychologists often refer to as the self-image, that powerful, personal vision of ourselves that forms the mental blueprint for our life experience. It is said that everything we think, say, or do is always consistent with our self- image. Simply put then, with the Law of Mental Equivalents in mind, any changes we wish to incorporate in our lives should include a clear vision of what we desire that is consistent with our self-image.
Re-framing the concept of our self-image as this interwoven tapestry of our personal life stories, allows us to more easily look at making changes to one thread, or story at a time. It reduces the over-arching concept of the self-image into manageable segments that can be more closely examined for beliefs about ourselves that may be holding us back in a particular situation.
In this context as we revise a particular story, or create a new one that is more in line with our desired outcome, we expand our conscious awareness to accommodate the new story, and hence, our new desire. By telling a new story about this desire we affirm within our own awareness that it truly aligns with our self image. In doing so we enrich the soil that allows this new desire to grow and manifest in our lives. As we become more aware of what we are communicating to ourselves and others through our storytelling, we will begin to see more opportunities to modify what we say and think in such a way that the stories we tell become more aligned with the results we desire. In this way, as Abraham would say, we are “allowing” that which we desire to come to us by maintaining a vibrational alignment with that desire.
To highlight the power of the stories we tell, and how they can affect the outcome of our life circumstances, I would like to share two health related stories from my own family. Contained within these stories we will see how the internal stories being told and believed can dramatically affect the outcome of a particular health issue.
The first one centers on the three week period of time leading up to the passing of my mother in August of 2000. At the age of 82, Norma was enjoying her retirement. While her overall health was generally good, she did have a history of breast cancer dating back to the 1960's. Following each of two separate mastectomies, she had received clean bills of health. And in fact, all was well with her for the next 25 years, as the cancer remained in remission.
In July of 2000 my mother began complaining of shortness of breath – she just couldn't seem to breathe in deeply enough. She was not known to be a complainer, so when she brought it up again during a Sunday brunch, my father decided to take her in to the emergency room to find out what was going on. The MRI revealed that she had a large free-floating tumor pressing up against her lungs. During the procedure that followed, they drained almost a liter of fluid from the tumor. The result was an immediate restoration of her breathing capacity. However, after the biopsy we learned the cells were again malignant. The diagnosis this time was not so good. The doctor told her that because of the disbursement of the free-floating malignancy throughout her abdominal cavity there was really nothing more they could do to safely and effectively eradicate the cancer. At this point with medical options exhausted his recommendation was hospice care.
It is important to understand that on that Sunday when the diagnosis was made, other than the shortness of breath, my mother seemed to be in reasonably good health. She was not in pain, and she looked and felt fairly good for a woman in her early 80’s. Over the days that followed, however, I watched my mother’s health rapidly decline. She took to her bed, and for the most part, remained there. Three weeks and two days after the diagnosis, she developed what we thought was a high fever, and we called the hospice nurse. When he arrived, he began checking vital signs. When he announced that he couldn't find a pulse, we suddenly realized she was gone. Shocking as it was in that moment to grasp that our mother had just died, it was the nurse’s next question, and his follow up comment that have stayed with me ever since. He asked us how much morphine she was on. We told him none, because she hadn’t been experiencing any pain. He looked astonished, and then said he had never heard of someone dying of cancer who wasn't in pain and on morphine.
Reflecting on this over the decade since, and knowing that my mother was not acquainted with Science of Mind or New Thought principles, it appears to me now that she trusted and fully embraced the doctor’s story, never questioning it. When the doctor gave his pronouncement it became her truth. I believe now that the story she told herself – of the hopelessness that nothing else could be done – actually helped bring about her rapid, and in retrospect her possibly premature, demise.
I must point out that at the time of the diagnosis the cancer had not yet attacked any vital organs, and hence, she was in no pain. Yet, in three short weeks she went from walking, talking and apparently enjoying life, to making her transition to the next plane of existence. I can't help but wonder how much longer she might have lived had she told herself a different story, perhaps entertaining the possibility of other medical opinions and options, instead of accepting the doctor’s story as the absolute and only truth.
The next story involves my life partner, Andre, and his bout with a non-life threatening but extremely annoying condition. Andre woke up one morning with the left side of his face drooping and feeling numb. He went to his doctor who diagnosed it as Bell's palsy. He told Andre that there was no known cure and that treatments may help, but that he would most likely have some form of this condition for the rest of his life. And this was in keeping with what we had observed with a close friend who had the same diagnosis. Even after following the prescribed treatment, our friend still sustained some of the ongoing effects of the palsy.
Andre was stunned by the prognosis, and yet as a good student of New Thought, he immediately resolved that he was not going to live out his life with this condition. He followed the doctor’s advice and took the recommend medication, and also began right away affirming that he was a "body of right ideas" as expressed by Ernest Holmes. He refused to even acknowledge the conventional wisdom that this condition might be permanent. And in a matter of weeks, when he returned to the doctor for the follow up appointment, it was the doctor's turn to be stunned, as he could find no trace of the palsy. I believe that Andre's choice to tell a new and different story both to himself and to others, one that affirmed his true wholeness, also brought about the change in his physical condition.
I believe both of these accounts illustrate the power in stories we tell, and how they can directly impact the conditions in our lives – for better or worse – depending upon the dominant focus of our attention. To affect real positive change in our life experience we must begin to harness the power that lives within our intentions, by assuring they are surrounded by a supportive thought environment. Examining and revising the stories that live within our mental tapestry, and affirming them to ourselves and others, offers us a way to expand our conscious awareness enough to allow the Law of Attraction to bring about the results we desire.
For those of us on the path of spiritual and intellectual growth, becoming aware of the stories we tell day-in and day-out, and how they either empower or imprison us, can powerfully affect our ability to achieve our most cherished goals. Even in the face of seemingly insurmountable circumstances, when we challenge what we "know" to be possible and true according to conventional wisdom, we can substantially change the quality of our lives, and create new possibilities by changing the stories we tell ourselves and others.
“If we really want to change our life experience, we must first change the stores we tell.”