What goes on between our ears has the biggest determination over what goes on in our hearts and in our lives. One of the biggest areas where we can trip up is when we get facts confused with stories, or “the truth” confused with fairy tales.
Think about a time when you had yourself absolutely convinced something utterly catastrophic was about to happen. Lying awake, turning over the prospect of imminent doom played out in excruciating and panic inducing detail. We have all done it. And then … and then … well, nothing happening. Nothing! The sky totally did not fall in. The fan was not hit with anything. All that worry, stress, drama and excess cortisol production for nothing.
It can be weirdly tempting to play out a worst-case scenario as a bizarre sort of double-think mental insurance to ward off against disappointment or rejection. If we have already considered the worst then maybe … maybe … it won’t happen. However, it’s a far easier way to live to know that whatever comes up, if it comes up, you are smart and capable and you will react and handle it.
And so, therefore, you choose to wait until such time that might be necessary and divert your attention to happier thoughts in the meantime. The stories we tell ourselves in our heads have the very real capacity to destroy our peace of mind with far more regularity than any outside event.
Look at it this way. What bedtime story do you read your 7-year-old son/daughter/grandson/granddaughter/nephew/niece? Is it a) Charlie And The Chocolate Factory or b) Nightmare On Elm Street?
Right. You wouldn’t dream of divulging the tales of Freddie Kruger’s bloody mayhem while you tuck them up, as you want the child to sleep soundly, yes? (preferably right through the night, uninterrupted, of course). You want to create the best conditions to do that; you know the content you fill their heads with at that pivotal moment is key — so you choose with discernment.
It’s the same at the cinema. We know the emotional impact of a good story and so there are standard content-rating systems for movies. We know how powerful those stories in the screen are so we want to choose age-appropriately and with discernment for the audience. We want the right story playing for whoever is watching it.
And yet we are nowhere near as careful stewards of our own bedtime story routine.
Replaying the tricky conversation with the boss while we clean our teeth: bad bedtime story. Thinking about whether that client is going to be furious or not as we turn down the covers: bad bedtime story.
Turning over the back-handed compliment our mother-in-law paid and worrying how that may play out at the weekend family barbecue: bad bedtime story. Figuring out if that friend deliberately blanked us at the school gate as we have upset them for reasons we know not: bad bedtime story.
No wonder we don’t sleep well, or our days are filled with worry. Our peace of mind is determined by the tone and content of the stories we tell ourselves through our waking hours.
And as for the stories we believe and repeat in the dead of night? They are the most powerful of all. Make sure you choose appropriate bedtime reading for your own sweet dreams.
Through her online Happiness programme “Wellbeing Warriors”, life coach Louise Thompson helps people unlock their happiest and healthiest life. Sign up at louisethompson.com and find more from Louise at bite.co.nz/wellbeing