Hacking Your Reality: The Art of Restorying
I have been engaged in an interesting research experiment this week. As I have been travelling through the forests of my everyday life, I have been asking the people I meet two questions:
1. How do you see the world around you right now?
2. What are you most afraid of?
I wanted to test the waters of the human story landscape around me and see what thoughts people were entertaining on a daily basis that were ultimately creating the reality of the story they were living in. The responses I received were in two decidedly different camps.
The majority fell into what I call ‘the fear camp’. Responses were based around stories of the world growing more chaotic, more confusing and more destructive than ever before. People I spoke to in this narrative world were often hooked on a diet of mainstream news, social media and daily conversations that only served to fuel their sense of drama.
When we feel as though our life is ‘dramatic’ in some way, we feel important and alive. It’s something we tend to learn as teenagers when we discover that the more illusionary drama we create in our lives and those of others, the more we get noticed by people around us. We feel seen, heard and important, even if that importance is ultimately destructive or causing pain to ourselves and others. I speak from direct experience here.
Of course, the drama cycle is limited in that it can quickly overwhelm us, especially when the sense of emotional stress is perceived to come from a source outside of us. Whether it’s work/ relationships/ health/ politics or all of the above, we often retreat to numbing strategies to lessen the level of dramatic anxiety we are experiencing. The people I spoke to shared a range of ‘numbness meditations’ with me from the classics of food/ TV/ alcohol/ drugs up to escapism through compulsive gaming/ shopping/ parenting or vacationing. In each of these cases, the numbing mechanisms allowed people to bypass and deny the underlying stress they were feeling, caused by their inner stories of global dystopia and the challenges of living in our modern civilization. Never once did anyone own up to the fact that they were the ones choosing the very narratives that were creating the stress or see that they could reframe and restory these stories if they chose to.
Long term overwhelm often leads to what Joanna Macy and Mathew Fox call ‘Acedia’ — the dis-ease of our modern times. Acedia or as Macy describes it, ‘couch potato-itis’, provides a convenient excuse for continuing to live within a disempowering narrative. The act of giving up our sense of personal power of choice, embeds habits of thinking that keep us powerless in the face of perceived drama outside of ourselves. We become a victim of change rather than the catalyst of it.
On the other side of this narrative fence were people who held decidedly more self-empowering views. Focused on the world they could control and influence inevitably these individuals shared stories of personal ‘crisis’ catalyzing opportunities to change and adapt their ways of living. They often shared stories of collective adaptation to challenge within their families or communities and innovative responses to an ever-changing world around them.
These ‘glass half full’ people regularly talked about daily acts of grace and synchronicity for which they felt deeply grateful. One woman in the local hairdressers beautifully articulated a story of feeling profound appreciation for the privilege of her ‘first world life’ and wanting to take every moment to express that to the people around her. She said, “The outside world exists but I do not believe half of what I hear because when I travel I encounter only good people living good lives to the best of their abilities. I have control of what I watch, what I believe and how I choose to live my life and that choice means everything.”
The thing that made these people stand out for me was the realization that it was their choices and stories about the world that created the reality they lived within. A dear friend of mine, Jude Currivan, writes prolifically about the emerging fields of new science where we are beginning to see just how interconnected we are as humans with the fabric of the quantum universe around us. The universe is in-formed by patterns of universal in-formation that allow us to choose and shape the reality within which we live. In this world, as Jude says, “mind really IS matter” and the old stories of separation are no longer scientifically viable.
Tough medicine indeed for those who are still living in victimhood.
The Art of Restorying
When we realize that we have choice, we have the ability to ‘restory’ how we see the events of our lives and the world around us. New choices, lead to new actions that ultimately lead to new experiences. New experiences broaden the story lens through which we see our lives and the world, allowing us to move into the field of possibility and even further options once more.
Our tests and confusion become the very things that catalyze our inner resources and bring opportunities. Instead of falling into overwhelm and acedia, we can rise to the challenges that the world presents us and face them with courage and tenacity. We can CHOOSE the story we wish to live within and hack the dominant narrative that we are presented by our culture/ media/ education systems. We can learn to create lives of meaning and purpose through discernment, courage, faith and joy.
Personally, having lived in both victim and creator narratives at different stages of my life, I know which one I choose to step into now. No matter how scary the world seems to be, I always have the choice of how I respond to the fear of drama.
Choice brings me a sense of freedom.
Freedom makes me feel truly alive.