The Power of Personal Stories

What am I feeling? What I am feeling, someone else is feeling too
What am I feeling? What I am feeling, someone else is feeling too

This is an invitation to rewrite the secretiveness of that which has challenged us.

Imagine when you were feeling something you didn’t fully understand, you had been able to find books about that topic. Imagine it had been easier to access. Imagine it being easier to discuss, to say, to bring up in conversation.

When I talk about the origin of what bothers me, it’s because it took me a while to travel that journey and discover that why. A journey infused with secretiveness ultimately generates a feeling of isolation. This is why I share my stories. I urge you to share your story. Stories are how we best understand concepts. They are examples.

I have revisited some of my life’s stories, but just recently did I understand that anxiety for me stemmed from a desire to be literally, where my body was not. This created a disconnection between my brain and body.

I’ve noticed that being disconnected from myself creates a distance between me and others, because when I don’t feel like myself I am distracted, overwhelmed by my interior world or busy trying to turn off my thoughts and feelings. In that moment I am not aware of the here & now, whether by scrolling, engaging in an excessive activity, or being scattered. When I’m in automatic scrolling mode, it’s usually aligned with a time of uncertainty in my life when I disconnect further from my body. I recognize now that a scattered mind is an anxious mind, and ultimately, distraction is always the opposite of awareness.

 

When a pattern of thought is very strong, we think we are the only ones who feel that way. I still wonder if everyone experiences the same intensity of emotions as I do. Add this to the category of things I will never know, but that’s ok. If we think we have to deal with something on our own, it feels very isolating and the experience is magnified, it is intensified. Sharing my story connects me with likeminded people, demystifies emotions and reminds me that emotions, after all, are shared common experiences.

 

Sometimes I get the feeling that some people think I over-dwell on topics. Then I remind myself I am not responsible for the feelings of others. And I confirm time and again that it is by telling personal stories how we demystify, normalize, and deconstruct the isolation from the stories we have hidden inside ourselves. If you’re not speaking it, you’re storing it, and that gets heavy.

I’m comfortable sharing what has happened to me because I’ve worked on my personal stories to understand myself better. Our life stories become part of who we are. Sharing them is by no means a sign of weakness. Vulnerability is strength in my book and in nature’s. Expressing the ability to heal means you’ve overcome something, or are in the process of doing just that. That is strength. Take a look at a tree that lost a branch and is still living. It took a lot of resilience for that wound to become a scar. It’s a beauty mark for it marks its story of survival.

 

I believe a tender story is not shared for pity or victimization. I own my story therefore I share. I have walked the road to understand it. And part of understanding where things come from is looking for the breadcrumbs of my feelings. Everything originates at an intersection (hello, Big Bang). And that works both for pleasurable and uncomfortable things. When things we wouldn’t wish upon anyone happen, they become part of our stories. That’s when we need to repair. I believe that as more people get in touch with their stories, we work together on building a more compassionate, empathetic world. Softness is our bond. A kind, in touch with their feelings person, will not want to cause the pain that they themselves have worked on getting over. These rewriting of stories makes us stronger, and the world softer. Also, speaking about something recognizes its existence. It takes away its invisibility.

Think about the first time you found a word, a term to address something. That aha! moment, and the small joy found in a glimpse of sense of community from sharing a story and hearing someone say: me too. It feels like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. In that moment you know its not only you who has lived with that little backpack on.

 

We all have shadows. Uncomfortable topics make most people uncomfortable. But why is this something people generally don’t talk about? Not talking about something doesn’t make that something more bearable. It enhances its discomfort. It highlights its ‘elephant in the room’ effect. Becoming aware is the first step. Once you know its there you can decide if you want to live with that lump in your throat, or try to redefine your normal.

 

The discomfort of working out a personal story is genuine. It’s annoying and real. But in the end, when your path is traveled, you get a distance from that feeling by exteriorizing that story, and understand that there was a point in which that, became part of you. It is not a definition of who you are, but it is something that happened to you.

 

I was so familiar with anxiety; I assumed it was a natural state in me. At one point though, I began to integrate enjoyment in my life and realized that the anxiety that I was feeling, was normal, but not necessary. How could I live without anxiety? Was it possible? I was now aware there were moments in which I was anxiety free. I wanted this to be my new normal, so I began to look for ways in which I didn’t feel it. I was in a way, running away from it. I was trying to escape time.

Exit Time

If you’ve ever ran away from a feeling, you know that when it comes back, it hits even harder. I was (and still sometimes) feeling anxious not only about whatever was giving me anxiety, but I was also feeling anxious about being anxious. I felt guilty about slipping on the anxiety banana, again.

For me it was a revelation to understand anxiety is a human emotion. I don’t know at what point anxiety became so negatively charged. I honestly didn’t even consider it an emotion. Like any other emotion, anxiety is part of the spectrum of what humans can feel. And thus, it cannot be avoided. But it can be softer.

The Head Space App has been my teacher for this. Anxiety is always going to be around. But as I work on being more connected with my body, I can acknowledge it is there, and let come and go. We can see a part of our story and not identify with it.

 

When I am more present with anxiety, it’s easier to not get overwhelmed by being anxious and trying to run away from anxiety itself. Being present with anxiety and resting there gets easier with practice. Training the mind in this way also makes us more aware. Being aware allows me to develop empathy for others. Of course anxiety can be really uncomfortable. But knowing it is a shared experience reminds me there is not that much distance between us.

 

Over time, I’ve connected with people who’ve become lovely friends. These beautiful humans are open to talking about vulnerable topics. These are my favorite kind of conversations and they tend to be soothing for all parties involved. We all process things differently, but remembering emotions are shared experiences, makes it feel lighter. Self-work, if not shared, limits the ripple effect of transformative story. The mind softens when we remember that what I am feeling, someone else is feeling too.

Share your story. This is how we change the world.