Sunday, March 18, 2007

miserable plodding sacred

"I've been wondering about how the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves affects us,"
"God, can you ever meet me for coffee and a chat and start with a normal sentence?"
"No, come on, seriously, I've been so preoccupied with this idea for the last month I haven't strung two words together for recreation, it's all been work related stuff,"
"Alright, so what's obsessing you about the stories people tell themselves?"
"It started innocently enough, I'd been too busy to write any fiction for awhile and I started feeling a little self-pitying, asking myself whether stories and storytelling were important to me anymore,"
"Don't you mean important to other people?"
"No, I meant me, it's nice to have an audience but I'd always believed I was writing because I had to, because I couldn't help myself, writing gave me some kind of outlet for my issues,"
"So what happened?"
"Well, everything started going well for me, I started feeling uncomfortable amounts of contentment and coupled with my workload I began to ask myself if there was any story left in me to tell,"
"I won't pretend to understand the logic of what you just said, or maybe I'll pretend I didn't, you lying pretentious bastard,"
"You know, you're the only one I know I'd let get away with that kind of a judgemental, stupid remark, you know that? Shut up a minute and let me finish,"
"Alright Mr. Angry,"
"See? There you go again,"
"Okay, okay, so you started to doubt the validity of storytelling because it no longer offered you catharsis? Is that basically it?"
"Let's say it is and move on to what happened next, I began to look around, outward, at the stories other people were telling themselves, everything from how they talked about their weekends to the weather and their wives, I began to feel this overwhelming sense that the stories they were telling physically shaped their realities,"
"So what? that's as old an insight as the guy who wakes up in the morning loving his life, his wife and his job but if his car won't start, the sun doesn't shine, he's hit with unexpected expenses, that same guy, in the same situation as the morning, comes home hating his life, his wife and his job, so what? people tell themselves different stories all day long and all day long they're busy re-writing the plot,"
"I suppose you're right, I guess I wish I knew how to tell myself different stories, tell myself stories that could change my life,"
"What's wrong with it?"
"Nothing really, it's just that-"
"-Hey, unless you know what the script is you can't change it,"
"It's not just me, there are people I care about who can't tell themselves better stories consciously because it feels to them like a self-deception, somehow, the initial stories they tell themselves, however maladaptive, have greater verisimilitude, genuineness, because they didn't consciously set out to tell them, the stories just got told,"
"So, if I follow you, If I analysed my own stories, not just the contents, the facts, the participants, but also the way I told the story, and then consciously chose to tell the story in a different way, a more empowering way, I wouldn't be able to step into it like I did with the story I wrote without knowing it?"
"I think you get what I mean, people seem to confuse honesty with truth,"
"You lost me again, is there a difference?"
"Yeah, honesty is where you're honest with yourself, knowing who you are and what you've done, how much of the story is your perspective, your perceptions, your interpretations, and how much of the story is independently true,"
"So what's the truth?"
"Remember that guy you mentioned whose opinion about his world changed throughout the day? For the purposes of stories that change your life, the truth is every slice of that guy's day,"
"So you mean the truth changed as he changed his viewpoint?"
"Exactly, when people confuse truth with honesty they think it's their obligation to tell others exactly how they feel because it's 'the truth' and they think that makes it okay, but if they were honest with themselves, they would wait and see if today's truth was just as important to tell tomorrow, often it isn't,"
"Anybody who did that full-time wouldn't have any friends,"
"Exactly, but back to the stories we tell ourselves, any idea on how to help me figure out a way to get people to tell themselves better stories?"
"Stories with the same power as their 'first drafts' for lack of a better word?"
"Yeah,"
"This might work, but I think it only works on other people,"
"What's that?"
"Listen to their stories, don't interrupt, tell them a random story with details from their story, leave the story without a conclusion,"
"People will hate me!"
"Not if you tell them five stories and leave only the first story unconcluded, by the time they've heard the conclusion to the last story they should have forgotten that the first story didn't end, they may even remember that it did when it didn't,"
"What if they confront me?"
"Tell them you finished 4 for getting them to finish 1, it's their turn for a change,"
"Jeez, how did we get on this topic?"
"I don't know, you started it,"

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