by Justina Hurley
For some people life is a poem, for others it’s a song, and there are those for whom it’s a tragedy, or a black comedy or a giant, epic fantasy! Regardless of what way the story unfolds, the one guarantee is that a story is being written, one breath at a time. But whose story are you in?
We are ultimately the people of the story.
We have a constant need for stories. We like stories about the world around us (the “News”). As we grow up our stories evolve from picture books, cartoons and comics to full blown movies, novels and TV soaps. Such is our appetite for a story we don’t seem to care whether the story is real or not and more and more we give equal weight to stories about celebrities and to Reality TV show stories featuring ordinary people.
If an alien civilization somewhere out there happened upon earth and began to observe us, they would probably say that this is a world of stories. To them, we might appear to be a young species of some kind who sit mesmerized as a giant story telling machine weaves its spell and enthralls us in its neverending supply.
A story is of course a great learning tool, as long as you are aware that it is a story. It’s when we are in the story and forget that it is a story that problems arise. We begin to believe the story that we are being told and that we are telling ourselves. We forget that as creative beings we have the power to co-create the story and to change its direction. Worst of all, we can become so entrenched in a version of a story that we fight anyone who is equally entrenched in another version. And so we have wars and conspiracies, financial meltdowns and power games.
Who pulls the strings?
More importantly, in forgetting that it is all a story in the first place we can be manipulated by those who control the mass story telling machines. As the media industries of news, film and music become more and more amalgamated into large corporations they have the power to pump out a stories that can influence what we believe.
Just look at what happened when Facebook admitted that it manipulated peoples’ timelines and ‘like’ figures in a study* to see how what they allowed people to see affected their emotions. By showing more negative stories to some users and reducing how many likes they were receiving they found that in the following days those users posted more negative content and showed more negative emotion.
At least Facebook admitted that they did this. But how much of this sort of manipulation of mass emotion is going on behind the scenes? A lot more that we realise unfortunately.
Right now we have a music industry that has become overwhelmingly mass produced, one dimensional and more like a giant porn and freak show. It is no surprise that the children incessantly being fed this storyline are becoming confused, unhappy and angry. And the adults fare no better as the mass media is feeding us on a diet of war, fear and insecurity amidst channels full of largely meaningless programming.
Choose your own story
But we have choice. We do not have to choose these stories. One step is to wise up to the story we are being fed and start creating our own. By questioning what we see and hear we can come to understand that healing ourselves and the planet can start from little steps. Parents also have a responsibility to watch what stories are being pushed on their children and to steer them to more creative and positive ways of seeing the world.
I feel very strongly about this as I see that the root cause of much of the dis-ease that my clients are now presenting with is stemming from a belief that it’s all hopeless and awful out there because that is the story they are seeing and hearing every day.
Yes we are the people of the story. The story has shaped us since we first started to create pictures on the walls of caves. But in truth there are only two operating systems from which everything springs – love or fear.
I post this, aware that there are many hard stories in the news right now. Over 200 Nigerian girls taken brutally from their school and their families, being treated like commodities and second class citizens. If the story was about a stolen weapon or stolen oil rather than stolen girls, do you think it would get a higher profile in the media?
And yet another tragic story is unfolding with the shooting down of the Malaysian Airways Flight. One tweet about this really resonated with me. It was from a person called Ammah (@AmmahStarr) who said:
#MH17 I have no words. Truly cannot understand the world we love in
I suspect she meant to say the world we live in (or maybe she didn’t) but either way this shone out as a wonderful reminder. This is the world we love in and we can only change how it operates when we understand how it operates.
The loop of fear, of attack and counter attack has to be broken. As hard as it is to move to a place of love in the face of unspeakable atrocities, it is the only option. The other way – the way of anger, of wanting retribution, of attacking back and creating even more war does not change anything.
We must start rewriting the human story and co-creating the stories of love. We must give attention to the stories that feed and nourish our souls, to the stories that inspire, teach and help us progress.
The other system, the one of fear has no place in our world. However, as long as we give attention and belief to the story machine of fear and hopelessness then we make it real. We give it power and then bring into reality all the things we absolutely don’t want to experience.
If we just become a little more conscious about where we place our attention; if we just learn to question everything first rather than blindly accepting and reacting, then we can wake up from the hypnosis and actively imagine a new way forward.
It doesn’t take much to take back the power to think for ourselves. It won’t happen overnight. But small steps and little choices can help us to unhook from the drip fed stories of fear. Understanding the power of the story can help us to understand this world we love in; can help us to write a better, bigger and happier story.
*Facebook study: Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks Adam D. I. Kramera, Jamie E. Guillory and Jeffrey T. Hancock