How to manifest a better life by cutting ties to old beliefs.
“Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending — to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. And I will choose how the story ends.” — Brené Brown
I was stuck in my story. I’d told it so many times it was on autopilot. I attached the same words, the same emotion, and the same meaning every time I’d tell it to a new friend.
There were chapters of my life I had decided to view one way and one way only. My thoughts were set in stone, and those beliefs rumbled around for years as the whole story… the complete accounting of my life.
Until I challenged it.
It was this quote that blew my story wide open:
“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.” — Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
What happens, and the meaning we give it, are two separate experiences.
I’ve had a lot of devastating times in my life, and I often thought more than my share. I had unknowingly chosen to hold onto those events, especially the story of my divorce, with numbing, painful shame.
We had tragically lost our 16-year-old son to bacterial meningitis and it tore our family apart. I knew the divorce wasn’t my fault or was it? Was my reaction to my son’s death the destroyer of my marriage? Or was it my husband’s reaction? Or both? Relationships are often challenged with such a tragic loss.
I’ve told that chapter of my life with the certainty that if my son had not died, I would be experiencing my fairy tale life, as I’d planned all along.
But now, I’m not so sure.
I can pretend I’d have my perfect marriage and we’d be sitting on our back patio in Westlake Village watching the grandchildren now.
But perhaps my life is precisely what it’s supposed to be. There’s no explanation for a child dying. Germs, illnesses, viruses, accidents… they are all a part of our human experience and vulnerability in life.
My reaction to those human events is within my control because what happened is separate from the meaning I give it.
What I do with that experience is my choice.
The past is no longer happening to me now, and my beliefs about it can change.
But there are roadblocks.
How do you get out of your own way?
I discovered a powerful tool while studying for my certification as a Grief Recovery Specialist® in Los Angeles. The tool is called a Loss History Graph.
On the graph, you detail the losses you’ve had your entire life to the present. Once you identify those losses, The Grief Recovery Method® teaches you how to bring it to completion so that you can restore your quality of life.
There are over 40 kinds of incidents that can be labeled as “loss” or traumatic experiences, the obvious like losing a loved one, but the not so obvious like graduations, empty nest, infidelity, or retirement.
My reaction to this exercise was profound. I didn’t realize so many things could trigger a grief reaction… like moving 12 times in 12 years when I was a young girl. My father was in the Navy and we were shuttled from one state to the next.
I decided to take this exercise a step further and do a timeline of my entire life, not just the losses. I wanted to analyze the incidents from a new perspective.
I then wrote in my journal and asked for guidance as to what these events taught me from three perspectives:
1. The negative and how it holds you back in present-day
2. The positive and who you are because of it
3. The lessons from it that have served me well
It was life-changing! I discovered that so much of my negative beliefs about myself happened because I’d tethered the negative experience as a ball and chain, ignoring the good the experience brought forth.
I then made a conscious decision by writing a letter to myself, asking that I cut the negative tether forever so that I could live my life free of it from that point on.
Your life depends on the meaning you’ve attached to it. Many people get stuck in the story they tell themselves about what happened. You have the choice to extract what you’ve learned and move forward.
It doesn’t mean you have to forgive or forget. You shift the importance of it in your present-day life. You put it behind you.
“Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” — Brené Brown, author, Daring Greatly
Here are two examples from my own life:
Incident 1: I was bullied on the playground in 5th grade.
I was a target for having red hair and freckles. Until that moment, I always loved my red hair.
Incident 2: I gave birth to a daughter with a birth defect.
My daughter was born with a cleft and would need numerous surgeries to repair her face.
Do you see how these events are “re-framed” in the positive? More importantly, do you see how these two incidents are intertwined?
Here is their connection.
One more thing… I learned to love my red hair; it stands out in a crowd and it remains today as one of the things people remember about me.
There’s a reason why some people will tell you they became better people after something like a life change or surviving a loss. It’s because they learned to honor that valuable gem of truth that makes you see life in a new way.
Life is the sum total of your experiences, thoughts, and how you react. It’s the ups and the downs that make life complete. You can’t appreciate where you are without looking back to see where you’ve been.
How are you feeling today?
Maybe you’re currently experiencing heartbreak, disappointments, job loss, financial struggles, or health issues. It’s overwhelming, isn’t it? But, you’re not alone. You have something inside of you that’s inside all of us. It’s the potential to change our stories..
If you look at the life of Viktor Frankel, a neurologist, and psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor, you’ll discover his story led to an entire life devoted to helping people find their own strength and resilience by looking at their circumstances in a new way. He said:
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” — Viktor Frankel
Take a moment to acknowledge what you’ve survived, and how far you’ve come. Think about the traits you’ve developed that helped you bounce back and stay the course.
It’s a powerful way to look at your potential to break free from things in your past that might be holding you back by changing the story around that incident. If you can find even one positive thing about what you learned from it, you’ll have a new story to tell and a wealth of wisdom to gain from it.
“Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending — to rise strong.” — Brené Brown, author Rising Strong