Photo by Mi Pham on Unsplash

Every good story is made up of certain elements.  These were taught to us in grade school and have been in every story or movie we have read or watched.  Good journalist knows these elements, and every person instinctively knows them.  In fact, we know them so well that they are deeply ingrained in our every thought and action from the moment we were born.

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What are these elements?  At a minimum, these stories require a plot, a main character, the setting, a conflict, a villain/hero, and the theme.

Why am I telling you this?  It’s not because I loved English class (because I didn’t).  I’m telling you this because we all tell ourselves stories that need to be analyzed.

Let me ask you to take a minute and think back on a time where you struggled the most in life.  That time you learned your hardest lessons.  Think about it and keep it in mind as I tell you a short story taken from the archives of Monique.  😉

My Favorite Story

When I was a teenager, I went through a hard time with my parents (as many teenagers do).  They worked a LOT and I didn’t see them as much as I wanted.  I also didn’t understand my feelings at the time, but in short, I felt angry, neglected, and disregarded.  It wasn’t long before I found people who would give me the “love” or attention that I craved.  To say that I carried a grudge against my parents is a great understatement.  I knew I loved them, but I couldn’t understand why I felt so upset whenever they were around.  I believed that their decisions in parenting caused me to act disrespectful, ungrateful, and rebellious.  My resulting actions led to criminal activities, poor choices, and a lot of unhealthy relationships.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

​​That’s it.  That’s my favorite, most used story.  It’s pretty lackluster but it’s a strong one I carried around for a very long time.  I used it any time I needed it and unfortunately, that was a lot.

​Now, if you were to dissect my story it would look something like this:

  • The plot was the series of events that started with my parents working a lot and ended with me being rebellious and destructive.

  • The main character is obviously me.  At times, I played both the protagonist or the antagonist.  I told this story to myself in 1st person and I had a strong emotional connection to the main character.

  • The setting began in the early 1990’s and carried on until approximately 2009.  It was mainly set in my small hometown.

  • The conflict happened when the parents worked and the character (me) felt neglected.  I struggled to feel important, so I created turmoil and looked for attention in other ways.  My parents felt disrespected and I acted out to show my disapproval of their “bad choices”.

  • In the beginning of my story, my parents played the villains.  When these parental villains weren’t around, I replaced them with countless other villains… The disloyal friends.  The emotionally unintelligent boyfriends. The teachers who kicked me out of class.  The police officers who cited me.  The justice system who wronged me.  My unfair bosses.  The evil strangers.  Etc.  This list is forever long.

  • I’m sure you can imagine that in this story, I was always the hero or the unsuspecting victim.

  • The theme in my story was:

    • “I am a victim, I am unlovable and unworthy of positive attention, people take advantage of me, men are not to be trusted, and I have no control over my life.”

What a powerful theme I adopted, and it served me, well…?  Not so good.

​I don’t know what “story” or event you chose to think about but I’m sure, at some point, you were also the hero facing great odds.  You may have been knocked down but you most likely beat the villain, in some way, shape, or form.
(If you haven’t beat your villain yet, please keep reading!)

Why do we tend to make ourselves the hero in our own stories?  Even when we aren’t, we have the tendency to find a million other villains.  And dang it.  Why do we always have a villain?!

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Movie Maleficent

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​In Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), they teach that we experience 400 billion bits of information each second!  This is absorbed both consciously and subconsciously through our five (or six) senses.  All the information is then sifted through our personal “filter” which is made up of values, beliefs, memories, meta programming, etc.  This filter generalizes, deletes, and distorts that information.

Generalizes.  Deletes.  Distorts. ​

NLP Filter

In your story:

  • What was generalized?  That people are untrustworthy?  Was it people in general or a gender, race, religion, social class, or any other group of people? My generalizations were my underlying theme; Men are untrustworthy, people take advantage of me, etc.

  • What was deleted?  I played the unsuspecting victim in my story.  I deleted the facts of being able to choose my responses and I disowned my responsibility.  I blamed and shamed everyone around me so that I could nurture a victim mentality.  In a weird way, that made me stronger.

  • What was distorted?  I distorted the fact that my parents worked a lot and that meant that they didn’t love me.  (Which, by the way, is completely ridiculous.)

I took the feelings of neglect and generalized, deleted, and distorted them until I believed I was no longer worthy of positive attention.  I subconsciously searched for that (and successfully found it) for the greater part of 2 decades.

Here’s my point.  I CHOSE those feelings because they made me the hero of my story.  It would have been just as easy to say that I was lucky to be raised by parents who worked themselves to the bone.  I could have felt grateful instead, but then I would no longer have had an alibi to my poor choices.  If I was willing to see a choice in my response, that would mean that I would HAVE to take responsibility for my life… and unfortunately for me, that takes work.  So, I continued to blame others.

  • What would happen if you change the theme of your story?  Would you regain your control?

  • What are you gaining from holding on to your story?  Does it get you the attention you could not get with someone else?  Who would you be without it?

  • What would happen if we got rid of all the “villains”?  Would you need your victim story anymore?  Could you still play the hero?

Changing your story is not as hard as it seems.  It is a simple decision, but it takes a good honest look at the stories you are telling yourself and others.

You don’t HAVE to be the victim.  You don’t HAVE to have villains.  Your story can be changed as soon as you decide, and how liberating it is when you do!

Thank you for taking this journey with me…

Please watch for Part 2 of this series where I will show you how to change your story.

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