I’m using myself as example here, but maybe you also have noticed this: Sometimes at night when trying to shut off my mind, it’s hard to know where one intruding thought ends and another begins. I mean they just seem to explode tangentially in first one direction and then another.
So as I’m lying there trying to relax and clear my mind, I start to wonder if any of those distracting, annoying thoughts stand alone as originators of the ‘can’t shut it off’ problem, or are they all connected at a deeper level so that they all just spew out randomly like pressurized waste because my unconscious mind is trying to clear its cache of collected debris?
Wide awake now, the next question I asked myself was WHY am I telling myself these particular things—not just rehashing the day’s interactions, etc., but also creating a running monolog to accompany them—like who did what and how it affected me, and what I did or didn’t do, or WHAT PART I played in those mock daily dramas—such as, what was my ROLE in what happened at the time—was I the victim of another’s ill intentions or was I the aggressor in a testy interaction, or was I the rescuer/hero of the oppressed underdog—meaning the one who stepped into someone else’s conflict to ‘save the day’ for all involved because I couldn’t keep my nose out of it, or was I a total and absolute mute bystander observing all with no sense of concern whatsoever? (I might later wish that I were, but I am NEVER a mute bystander.)
In those ‘tell-myself’ stories, it would seem that each possible self-perceived role is revealing HOW I truly think of myself. As Don Juan in Carlos Castaneda’s epic story series would ask Carlos, “Are you a leaf at the mercy of the wind? Is that how you see yourself? Are you always at the mercy of fate and your surrounding environment? Are you never responsible for your own actions or reactions to whatever presents itself at the moment?”
All good questions. So as my mind tried unsuccessfully again to shut down for the night, I asked myself exactly HOW was I retelling that story of this eventful day of my life? That ‘HOW’ is important here, because I’m actually telling it to myself in this particular way for a deeper reason—there’s a NEED to view myself as whomever I believe myself to be: victim, perpetrator/aggressor, or rescuer/hero.
Now part of this ‘retelling’ problem might be in HOW I viewed the affecting situation as it was actually happening: Was I an active participant in the interaction—a passive one—an unwilling recipient/victim to the actions of others—an instigator myself of conflict that lead to further hostility? If I were being honest here, what part did I really play in that situation, because the world spins on day to day and interactions with others regularly come and go?
And truthfully everybody you meet is in their own version of the world’s events happening to them on whatever level they are engaging with it; meaning that each person has their own ongoing interpretation of what is happening to them at any moment in time with or without others involved.
We all live in our own worlds, safely tucked into our own headspace; and in that headspace we are telling ourselves OUR VERSION of what is or was happening to us: We are telling OUR STORY as we understand it through whatever “perception filters” that we applied at the time.
Some filters may be bright and rosy-pink so our world view is always soft and warm and never threatening. But other ‘perception filters’ may be cloudy or darkened to allow little light to penetrate them, which means that they may obscure the clarity of the view and darken any possible brighter aspects that might have actually occurred.
Another consideration is that in the telling of our now ‘epic life saga’ to ourselves, where does one ‘story version’ end for us and the next one begin, or are they all ‘variations on the same basic theme,’ like: “I’m always the victim here—everybody is against me,” or “I’m always defending myself from everyone else—they won’t leave me be so I’ll give it right back to them,” or “I’m always having to defend those who can’t seem to defend themselves”?
Also keep in mind that reassessing and retelling our personal history is a tough recollection because it’s fraught with such factual subjectivity, lingering emotional residues, and sometimes faltering early memories of what actually occurred. In truth childhood is one of the most influential time periods of our primary psyche development, and one of the least reliable memory storehouses of our early life because we were so limited in overall situational comprehension back then.
For certain I know that my first impressions of life surrounding me as a four or five-year-old compared to my adult interpretations of the same situations and life experiences might be quite different. How could they not be? (That is NOT accounting for barbaric, abusive, life-threatening, childhood living conditions which are hard to forget at any age. But that was not MY personal experience.)
And even as an older child or a teenager comparing to a forty-plus-year-old interpretation of those same life events, they might not match up—meaning someone with some age behind them who has had some experience in how life actually works rather than how ideally it should work, might view a personal life crisis quite differently because even our early pleasure/pain evaluators of a personal experience can evolve as we enter life phases with ripening understandings of ourselves and the world around us.
Pertaining to our personal stories, in one sense you can say that “We tell it like we see it;” but in another sense you can also say that “We tell it like we PERCEIVE it to be,” and that perception may be tainted by our past histories and still festering emotional residues, including previous severe trauma.
Sometimes I think it’s amazing that any of us can perform well at all with everything that we are continually inputting through our multiple senses, instantly evaluating in our minds against known threats, and automatically reacting to in the most self-protecting and self-preserving manner possible.
No wonder we can’t get along as a fully-functioning society with agreed-upon group goals, when we can’t even get our stories straight.