Free Yourself from the Familiar
Our stories are often reflected in what we say to others when they ask how we are. You might tell a story like, “Everyone in my family has bad luck, so no, I haven’t tried to find a new job even though I can’t stand the one I have.” Or, you might say, “No, I haven’t done meditation since we last talked. I know they say it can help with anxiety, but anxiety runs in my family. I’ve always been an anxious person and probably always will be.”
Do you take comfort in a story called, “This is how my life always has been. No point in pretending it could ever be otherwise” or “This is just who I am and I can’t change”?
Does that story work for you—so well that you’re sure you want to give up hope for something better?
It can be distressing and demoralizing to try to improve your life only to fail or be frustrated by slow progress and setbacks. Giving up hope can seem like a sensible choice that can spare you further emotional pain. But what if you could tolerate that discomfort?
What if you’re underestimating the enthusiasm, excitement, and joy you would feel if you were to free yourself from the familiar and let go of that old, pessimistic story?
Even if you have failed again and again to overcome your challenges and make big changes you say you want to make, changing your story can help you feel more vitalized and energetic.
You might find a story like “I appreciate what’s good in my life, prioritizing the nourishment of my soul, and opening myself up to new possibilities” helps you find the courage to take risks and imagine better circumstances and how you can start to bring them about.
Doing nothing has its payoffs, but the familiar can be a trap. Doing nothing might help you avoid anger, frustration, and sadness, but you might experience those anyway because you didn’t step out and try to make a change.
Your new story doesn’t have to be “I’ve solved my problems once and for all and never have to think about them again.” That might not be realistic. But imagine if you rewrote a story about having bad luck, replacing it with a new one like “I’m exploring and looking at my options so I can start envisioning myself in a job I find rewarding”? Or you might adopt a story like “I’m going to meditate more often because I might discover it helps me with my anxiety.”
How does it feel to contemplate this new story?
Why not let go of that familiar story that restricts you from experiencing what you desire and open to a new, more satisfying one? Free yourself from the familiar and discover what possibilities arise.
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A version of this article appeared in Whole Life Times. Learn more about transforming your life’s story in my book Change Your Story, Change Your Life.
Carl Greer, PhD, PsyD, is a retired clinical psychologist and Jungian analyst, a businessman, and a shamanic practitioner, author, and philanthropist funding over 60 charities and more than 850 past and current Greer Scholars. He has taught at the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago and been on staff at the Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being.