Sunday, January 10, 2016

Using Story To Heal The Past And Change The Future

November 25, 2014

How are you enjoying (or not) Thanksgiving gatherings with family and friends? Could there still be some unresolved issues from your past? If you feel uneasy, you are not alone.

A few months after I married James in 1975, my mother passed away suddenly in Hong Kong. As a result, my first Thanksgiving with my new family was not as happy as I envisioned. For one thing, at that time I only knew James' family for a few months. For another, theirs is a close-knit Mandarin speaking family. Even though they tried their best to talk with me in English and their versions of Cantonese, I still felt left out somehow. The factor that affected me the most was from within. I couldn't help but think of my family in Hong Kong, and gravely missed my mom. My emotional baggage prevented me from enjoying the here and now, even when loving kindness was shown to me.

After becoming a Christian in 1989, I experienced a new sense of belonging. The next few years we attended our church's retreats during the Thanksgiving weekend. When those annual retreats were moved to different dates, we resumed spending Thanksgiving with my in-laws. With renewed perspective and attitude, I was able to enjoy James' side of the family just as mine.

I was stuck in the victim mode of my mom's life story until I was healed from the past. Would you like to help someone to live a new life? May you be inspired and motivated by this article to take some actions.

When we think of "story," we tend to think of three bears, a girl with loathsome stepsisters, or the latest novel we've read. But story is integral to our personal lives, as well as our collective culture.

The U.S. was birthed as a nation based on a shared story of "equality for all." Our individual lives also are shaped in this way. John grew up in extreme poverty, and as a result decided as a young man that he wanted to help end hunger. As head of The World Bank in a Third World country, he contributed to the welfare of millions of people. He was a wealthy banker, yet the core story that fueled his life was that he was a man who fed hungry people.

Change Your Story, Change Your Life
Current popular teachings contend that we have the ability to transform our lives by changing our thoughts. This transformation is facilitated by the recognition that our thoughts are part of an organized structure of reality—a story—that we are living. Rather than having to catch endless chaotic thoughts midstream, examine the story you tell about yourself to yourself and decide how you want to rewrite it.

Jim Loehr, author of The Power of Story: Rewrite Your Destiny in Business and in Life, says the success of our lives is at stake: the stories we tell about our work, relationships, accomplishments and shortcomings become our destiny.

Here are some exercises to facilitate awareness of the stories that shape your life, and to diminish the influence of stories that work against you:

Discover what you have learned from the stories of your life. Divide a piece of paper into two columns. On the left, list significant stories—your version of events that occurred—from all stages of your life. In the right-hand column, write a brief description of what you learned or decided as a result of that experience.

Heal past experiences by transforming the story. Choose a difficult incident from your childhood, or one that prompted you to make an unhelpful decision, and write it down. What happened? How did you feel? Now, rewrite that story with a different ending. Be imaginative. Any outcome is possible.

Life stories can be filled with twists and turns, like the story of Joseph (in Genesis 37-50). He was the most beloved son of his father and had dreamed of greatness, yet his life was far from smooth sailing. At 17, Joseph was betrayed by his 10 older brothers and sold to slave traders. They took Joseph to Egypt and sold him as a slave. Who would know that Joseph would become an agent of God to save his father's entire family, including those brothers who betrayed him?

Years later, when his brothers were safely settled in Egypt, they became afraid that Joseph would avenge what they had done. After their father's death, the brothers concocted a story to protect themselves from this possible threat. But what is Joseph's perspective as recorded in Genesis 50:18-20 (NLT)?

Then his brothers came and threw themselves down before Joseph. "Look, we are your slaves!" they said.

But Joseph replied, "Don't be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.

Don't let your past wounds kidnap your future. With God's help, you too can rewrite the ending of your story!

Discover your core stories. Explore how you see yourself in five areas: Work, Family, Health, Money, and Love. Write a page on each subject. How do you feel about this area of your life? What did you learn as a child? Does the story you tell in one area sabotage your values and beliefs in another? If any story does not support your goals, start telling a different one.

Seeing your life as a story is a powerful way to recognize the significance of your life, and to emotionally connect with and share the wealth of your experiences. And when you recognize that your stories can be altered, you have the power to improve your life.
Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications

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