I was 14 and the angst of adolescence was at full throttle; the social anxiety, the need to fit in, the bullies, the constant judgment… I was cracking under the pressure of it all. Turbulent emotions surged through me stirring up dark thoughts, confusion and feelings of hopelessness. These roller coasters of emotions grew in intensity and frequency. As they did stories began to develop and accompany them. Inner stories that I told myself in a soft mean whisper:
“Something is wrong with me. No one understands me. I’m all alone.”
These stories embarrassed me, ate away at my self-esteem and felt too dangerous to share. After all, thinking these things about myself was one thing but to share them with others? Wouldn’t that just make them believe it too? So, I sat quietly. My lips closed and eyes open; watching the world for cues on how to fix this, how to fix me.
Eventually the stories grew to mythological strength. No longer fleeting emotional rants they became deeply held beliefs. They were bigger, bolder, more insidious and harder to shake. They became truth.
Something was wrong with me. I wasn’t understood. I was all alone.
That’s the danger when stories become myth. We give them merit, clout and significance. They become held sacred truths, fundamental self-beliefs and unchangeable hurdles that shape our perception of ourselves and the world around us.
For individuals with mental illness these inner myths can be the Achilles heel in their recovery. The stories rear their ugly head at strange and opportune moments. Just when you think you are making progress some event or interaction occurs and your stories find you. They pull you back into that uncomfortable but well known place. The groove of your past behavior and cognitive patterns, well-worn with time, are like quick sand and before you know it you are enfolded in your past; yielding to the myth once again.
But what if the stories that turn myth are just that — stories. Invented tales that we tell ourselves to explain a thought or interaction that we don’t understand. Throughout history storytelling and myths were used to explain natural or social phenomena that were otherwise not understood. Over time they became widely held beliefs through many re-telling’s and the listener’s willingness to believe them as truths.
What if the inner myths we have about our self-worth are used for the same purpose? To understand ourselves, the world around us and our place in it. You can think back to all the times you were confused by how others treated you, how they treated themselves and what occurred in your life. What ways did you try to make sense of it? Did stories pop up to try to rationalize it or explain it away? Are those stories still at play in the background of your life, unconsciously directing your actions, interactions and potential for change?
Just as the grooves of the ocean floor direct the flow of water on the surface, our inner myths direct the path of our lives. These myths can be buried so far down under layers of unconsciousness that we don’t even know that they are there. We are often blinded by the impact they have on our choices.
After all, why would not being picked for a sports team in gym class still impact the self-esteem of a business man? Why would not being invited to a classmate’s party still have the un-invitee feel like they are never included? Why would the confusion of a tumultuous time in your life still have you feel like you are spinning out of control despite the resolution of that event?
We not only carry the stories of those times but the conclusions we made as a result of them. Those conclusions hammer the myths of our inner world in deeply. The businessman concludes he is not good enough. The women not invited to the teen part concludes she isn’t liked and is not worthy of being included. The ups and downs of drama filled times create the perception of being weak and at the effect of external circumstances.
It’s these stories turned myths turned truths that stick us the most.
In my experience, living with a Bipolar label for most of my life, the inner stories that turned myth were the main sticking point that years of therapy couldn’t loosen and that medication couldn’t touch — just numb me out to. Those inner mean whispers, and the conclusions they created, of being misunderstood, all alone and wrong were muffled but still alive. Regardless of the stability I achieved through traditional approaches those myths followed me around and continued to cloud my perception of myself and the world.
I tried everything — yoga, meditation, journaling, positive affirmations, essential oils, traditional talk therapy, energy psychology… I was seeking information hoping to overthrow my inner myths however what I found were theories that merely justified the feelings being there in the first place. Yoga taught me about anava mala — the deep feelings of worthlessness and incompleteness we all have. Cognitive behavioral therapy taught me about underlying assumptions and limiting beliefs. These systems helped create more acceptance of the myths however they didn’t free me from their hold.
Years later I found another theory from Access Consciousness®, a system of pragmatic energy-based tools, that turned my perspective of this upside down. What if the story isn’t real? Enlivened by this question I began to wonder: What if the stories that planted my seeds of unworthiness weren’t even real to begin with? What if the foundation that I had built all those self-limiting beliefs on was faulty? Does this mean that I can change it?
What I found upon deeper exploration were steps I could take to dispel the myths, unravel the stories and finally move beyond the self-limiting beliefs they created.
Step #1: Come out of the story loop. Have you ever noticed that each time you tell your story you activate emotions? You relive each experience as though it is happening right now and it becomes real again. Each time you do this the story creates a greater hold on you. This is the primary way our past continually haunts us. When you notice yourself telling a story — to you or to someone else — interrupt it with a question. Ask yourself what you can chose to move away from your past story and into the present. Is it a change in conversation topic? Is it the acknowledgement that the story isn’t real? Is it an awareness that you just went to the past and in so doing lost your connection to the now? If you were present with what was going on in the moment — would your story be relevant?
Step #2: Recognize when you have bought a story from someone else. A lot of our inner stories come from what other people have told us throughout our lives. Our parents, teachers, peers and society are constantly seeing and interacting with us through stories. You are my son which means… You are the ‘A’ student which means… You are a teenage girl which means… How many of your stories were given to you by others and were never really true for you? As these stories come up ask “Is this mine or did I buy it from someone else?” You will become aware of where you bought the stories that surround you and made them your own. Simply return that story to sender and ask what’s true for you to be revealed. If it was never yours you can’t fix it or change it, you also don’t have to be ruled by it. With this awareness you become free from other people’s expectations and have more freedom to be yourself.
Step #3: Become aware of the early conclusions you made based on your story. As I mentioned above our early experiences and the conclusions we make based on them become stories and deeper myths. Look back through your life and see where the seeds were planted that have you feeling limited in some way. Become aware of how those conclusions have been impacting you since that time through behavior, emotional and cognitive patterns. Once you recognize where the seed was planted, and that it is not real, you have more power to move beyond it. Your unconscious reactions cease as you realize you have the choice not to be at the effect of past stories any longer.
Step #4: Recognize the choice point. We all have choice points that can either generate our lives or degenerate them. When you acknowledge your power in those moments and become present with them choosing beyond your myths and self-limiting beliefs becomes easier. You become aware of more life-affirming choices and note that each time you choose in that direction more possibilities bloom.
Dispelling the myths of mental un-ease is a readily availability to all of us. Whether you have been diagnosed with a mental illness or have been struggling silently or just know there is more peace possible than what you have now — you can choose it.
It was a long path for me but once I recognized that the stories that created the myths of limitations were just that — stories — and that I had the power to choose beyond them everything changed. The deep-seated limited beliefs let loose their tight grip and the loop of the story stopped coming to call. I started to see myself and the world with clearer eyes. An inner peace began to flourish as the freedom for more expansive self-development became readily available.
Who are you beyond your inner myths?
Are you ready to explore?
Originally published at medium.com