Holding our Stories with Open Hands


Photo by Lukas at Pexels.com. Thanks Lucas!


We are storytelling creatures. We create stories even more than we realize. Stories about who she is, how he'll never change, what a jerk that person IS who just cut me off in traffic.


And we often will default to the worst possible interpretation of the circumstances. She hasn't texted me back; I hope she's okay! [worry]


Our interpretations of circumstances are often so wedded with the ''raw data'' (in this case: "I have not received a text''), that we often don't realize we are doing two things:

1. observing

2. interpreting


The good news is that we have a choice of what story we make up. AND, I would argue that the real freedom available here, is in how we hold our stories.


On one end of the spectrum we are so attached to our stories (picture a fist gripping tight) and we don't even realize we are making them up.


And on the other end of the spectrum we hold our stories with open hands (picture an open hand extended to someone), with a realization that we make up stories and we don't know how they will unfold. (And that's okay!)


When we are stressed we are more apt to ''jump to conclusions'' (i.e. make up stories), whereas when we are relaxed our thinking can be much more flexible.


So how do we shift from being attached to our stories and opening our tightened fist?


Yes, we practice a new way-of-being.


In applied improvisation we participate in exercises where we don't know how it will unfold and because of the safe space that gets created, support from each other that is experienced, trust grows, and we can develop an ability to loosen control and be curious where the story or scene will go.


When we play a ''Word-At-A-Time'' story, you and I would offer one...word....at....a.....time, to tell a story. If in the middle of the story you say ''Lost'' and I say ''your'' and I think/hope you are going to say ''wallet'', but instead you say ''dog''. to the degree that I'm tightly trying to control the story is the degree to which isn't not going to work. If instead I lean in, holding 'wallet' with an open hand, so that when you say 'dog', I'm right there ready to receive it (and let go of wallet), and you are practicing the same stance, then it creates the potential to create something new and amazing together.


And what I would argue is that this practice and similar ones, begin to cultivate the muscle of ''holding stories lightly''.


James Doty, MD founded the Center for Compassion and Altruism at Stanford Medical Center. His video here gives a couple of good examples of how we make up stories. And he says some great things about compassion and dealing with stressful situations.



What stories are you making up in your work and life currently? And how can you choose something new? (Note - it's not always easy, so .... As Dr. Lydia Zylowska says, ''Practice being kind to yourself).


#appliedimprov #appliedimprovisation #wemakeupstories



©2020 David Westerlund