Podcast Episode 25: Fact vs Fiction
Hello and welcome my podcast friends. Happy you’re here with me for another week of the LOVE AT HOME podcast. Right now it’s just two days after Christmas and it’s been an amazing, full week. We’ve gotten together with a lot of different people, talked with a ton of people, participated in holiday traditions that were created long before I was even born and are still going strong. It’s been fantastic.
But as I had the opportunity to chat with so many people it was interesting to hear how they spoke about their lives, how they spoke about their family, their Christmas traditions -what they used to be and what they are now. They all spoke to me as if they were just sharing the facts of what’s going on in their lives. They were recounting details and filling me in on crucial content so that I could understand their perspective and see from their point of view. But all I heard was a story. Story after story from each person I spoke with. I told stories myself. We all do. We, as humans, are masterful story tellers. My kids are master story tellers. I’m sure that’s not a title many of you would claim or recognize in themselves, but I promise you, YOU are a master story teller even if you’re not aware of it yet.
We see the world through our lens of understanding. We understand things by creating context around these circumstances. We create stories to communicate, to understand, to navigate our world. Why is this important?
Because what I want to talk to you about today is one of basic, core tools that I teach my clients from session one on – actually, from the first mini session really, and by the way – if you haven’t taken advantage of my mini sessions- you are missing out my friends. It won’t always be available so jump on this opportunity while you can.
Okay, back to stories. What I teach my clients and now teaching you – is this concept of fact vs fiction. As master story tellers we tend to get these two mixed up and morphed together quite a bit and it creates all kinds of problems for us.
This past week we had a ton of activities and events that we had planned to go to. We had about five days of busy, but fun events and we were part excited – part bracing ourselves because it was a lot all back to back like that. Each place we went to we needed to bring things to it, food to contribute and share, gifts to have wrapped, music to bring, parts of programs that we were a part of, and four kids all dressed and looking presentable. We were doing spectacularly well up until day 4.
Day four we needed to bring three different kinds of goodies as part of the program that I was put in charge of but when we went to the kitchen to make the goodies we were out of just about everything. Seriously, we didn’t have more than a cup of sugar. We didn’t have the red sprinkles to make the Santa cookies. We didn’t have the rice crispies to make the traditional date cookies that we make every single year since I was a little girl. My daughter started to feel sick, the house was looking disheveled, Christmas was the next day and in my mind I had this non-stop circulating list of making sure everything was checked off and that I wasn’t forgetting anything and as I’m standing in my kitchen trying to think of what else we can bring my family is cheerfully sitting down and eating lunch in the other room.
I stood there feeling overwhelmed, frazzled, and at that moment annoyed that they were all oblivious to the dyer state that we were in. How could they all just stop and take a break? There’s no time for eating! We have stuff to do and very little time to do it in!
I could feel these feelings rising up and not wanting to react, resist, or avoid them I excused myself from the kitchen and took a break to sit alone for a minute. All these things I was telling myself as if it were factual and if I was talking to a friend they’d back me up and agree with me but really, how much of what I was spinning was fact and how much of it was fiction? – pure thoughts that I’m creating that don’t really need to be there?
Did I need to bring goodies? No. Was it mandatory? No. Would it be great if I did have them? Sure, but necessary? Absolutely not.
Were we OUT of everything? No. Would the world end if I didn’t make the traditional date cookies? No. – which I didn’t and no one noticed, asked, or cared btw.
Did I need to bring anything at all? Music? The program? Anything? No. My family would be happy that we were there. Even without a program we’d still be fine. Even without extra treats, even without bows in the girls hair, even without matching attire, even if we didn’t go at all – we’d still be fine.
The facts are that I didn’t HAVE to go anywhere. I didn’t HAVE to bring anything. I didn’t HAVE to do anything. The house was fine just as it was. There was plenty of time to eat lunch which I probably would have felt better had I stopped and eaten with them.
Everything I was telling myself was a story. I was spinning this wildly convincing story of how things needed to be just so for it to be…what?
Do we ever answer that? We need things to be just so for it to be perfect? Good? worthy? What is it? For us to be able to feel good? proud? happy?
I sat there and allowed myself to feel everything that I had created with that story. I felt the overwhelm, the weight and pressure I had created myself. I felt the annoyed and irritated. I felt scarcity and anxiety and then I let them all go.
I let them go by choosing not to think those thoughts anymore. Once I unraveled what was really going on in my mind and seeing things for what they are – fiction, a convincing story and deciding that I didn’t like how this story was unraveling and how this story felt in my body. I, as the author and creator could change all of that.
I separated fact from fiction and started there. What was true? That I didn’t HAVE to do anything. We were invited to a get together. We were invited to bring food to contribute – not demanded, not required as admission – invited. We were invited to share our musical talents – not required – not demanded – not forced – invited.
I always love the quote by president Dallin H. Oaks where he says, “We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives.”
Would it have been good to bring extra treats and goodies to go with the program? Sure. It would have been good and fun and probably forgotten by the next day. Would it be better to stop rushing and enjoy the moment with my family? absolutely.
Would it be good to have everyone looking dapper and adorable and matching and all kinds of cuteness? Sure. Totally fun and I’d probably be the only one to notice or care. Would it be better to drop those expectations that were creating stress and pressure? Absolutely.
There are so many good things we can do and want to do but we need to be clear and careful to separate out the facts from the fictional stories we want to tell ourselves.
Our minds are really amazing and can whip up a very convincing story that we believe and act upon most of the time not even questioning the validity of the details. We have to be really good at deciphering what’s factual from the wild stories we tell ourselves.
We do this not only with our to do lists but with relationships and events. We do this when we get together with family and friends. We want things to make sense and so we start to fill in the blanks with our interpretations and stories and we get ourselves into all kinds of trouble when we do this because a lot of the time those stories aren’t serving us.
Think about your week, some encounter you had with someone. Think about the story you told yourself about that event. What story did you tell yourself about that encounter? About that conversation you had?
I think I shared this before but I remember this one time I was singing a solo in church and there was this one lady that was staring at me. I interpreted her look to be abnormal and she looked kind of mean, kind of scowling. So to make sense of things my mind concocted this wild story about how she must not like my voice, maybe she doesn’t like me, maybe I did, said something to offend her and once you give your mind a directive – in this case, it’s “she’s looking at me weird. Why is she looking at me weird?” Then it goes to work looking for all kinds of evidence to prove that story true – even if it has to make up stuff to do so.
It wants to give you what you want so be careful the directives you give yourself. It’s in these moments that you have to pause even for a split second to interrupt the stories and separate out fact from fiction. What was factual? That I was singing and she was looking at me.
That was it. I didn’t know what her expression meant. There were a lot of people looking at me. I was singing a solo. But how quickly our minds look for what it interprets as abnormal, weird, potentially dangerous. It can’t decipher between the harmless, someone is looking at me and not smiling – maybe they’ve tuned out and are lost in thought – with there’s a tiger out to get us, we might die.
Our minds are always on the lookout for potential threats and to the primitive part of our brain it deems just about everything as a threat. This is where you have to use your prefrontal cortex to make those higher decisions, to think those analytical thoughts and decide whether it’s fact and yes, this needs attention, or no, I’m not in danger. This is purely fictional.
Be careful how you talk to yourself and others after events, church, parties, family gatherings, anything – you’re going to want to reflect and interpret behaviors, conversations, etc. You’re going to want to make sense of things and you’re going to create a story by filling in the blanks but you’ll also want to be very clear about what’s factual and what’s just thoughts – and ask yourself if those thoughts are going to serve you or not.
After Christmas dinner you’re reflecting on the evening and you remember that comment your sister in law made about you and you start questioning her motives, why did she say that? What did she mean by that? And you start creating a story – notice what the facts are and what you’re filling in – notice how those fill in thoughts make you feel. Notice what actions come next.
We are master story tellers. We tell ourselves stories day in and day out. We interpret the world around us through stories.
We recently went and visited a friend and while we there he was telling us that he was all alone. There wasn’t anyone left. His friends were older and had passed away. He didn’t have anyone to visit him for the holidays. He was going to be alone except for his sister. She was going to come by and bring food and maybe his son.
This story is a sad tale to tell. But what’s fact and what’s fiction?
Was he alone? No. We were there, our whole family right there with him, wanting to be there, wanting to be with him.
Was he going to be alone for Christmas? No. He said, his sister was coming and maybe even his son.
But those stories. They are convincing. Because he didn’t have plans to get together with lots of people in his mind went to no one. He spun this story that he was alone and even though the facts told differently our stories can cloud over those and convince us that our thoughts, the directive we give it – is indeed what’s true.
Separate fact and fiction. Separate what’s factual and what’s just a story. And if it’s a story, how does that story feel to you? I’m not telling you not to tell stories. It’s how we live, how we create a whole picture from fragments that we’re given – we can’t know everyone’s thoughts and motives. So we fill in the blanks and we’re supposed to – just make sure it’s a story that’s serving you. A story that will create useful feelings that motivate you to do good, to show up as your best self.
When you’re driving and someone cuts you off or speeds passed you, separate fact and fiction – fact, a car passed me – fiction – that jerk! Did you see what he just did? How does that story make you feel? Angry? Annoyed? What do those feelings make you do? Be more aggressive in your driving? Or can you decide that fact: A car passed me – fiction: They must really need to get somewhere – I hope they’re okay – how does that story make you feel? Compassionate? What do you do when you feel compassionate? Move over? Let them go? Drive more cautiously?
Be careful of the stories you tell yourself. Separate fact from fiction and then question your story. Is this story going to serve me? Is this story going to help me show up how I want to show up?
When you reflect back on your holiday, your get togethers, your conversations what kind of story are you telling yourself? Separate fact from fiction – what’s true? What’s a circumstance? And notice the rest will all be the story. How does that story feel to you? What actions do thinking and believing that story create for you?
Sometimes we create a story because we think it’ll protect ourselves. Not from imminent danger but potential emotional turmoil. We’d rather think negative thoughts about someone because we think it feels better to push them away – even in our minds, than to be vulnerable, forgiving, and open – because what if they really don’t love us back or like us back? Then we’d make that mean something about us and it might hurt.
But what’s interesting to notice is that you’re hurting either way – you’re creating pain and suffering for yourself either way – they aren’t feeling it – only you are so why not take a moment and clean up that thinking? Separate the facts – then add in the rest of the story in a way that serves you best.
Our stories, our thoughts create how we feel, what we do, and ultimately what results we get in life. Take a few moments regularly to check in with yourself and separate fact from fiction. What are the circumstances? What are the facts? And here’s a hint – the facts will always be few – it’s our story, our thoughts about the facts that will be long and elaborate and full of details. Whenever I go to separate fact and fiction with myself or with clients the fact side is always short but the fiction side is long with many many thoughts. So separate those out – you can do this wherever you’re at – it’s best to write it out so you can see what’s really spinning in your head but in a pinch you can absolutely do this by just checking in and separating what’s real and factual from all the rest. The story, the fill ins, the fiction. Then ask yourself how those fill in details feel to you?
Does believing that story you’re telling yourself feel useful? Is it helping you show up how you want to?
Does believing that person doesn’t care helping you feel connection and love? Or can you choose other details and fill in’s that will create that for you?
Remember, connection doesn’t happen when two people cooperate and work together and both think kind thoughts about each other and serve one another. That’s what we all think but that story doesn’t serve anyone because what happens when they don’t do those things? We don’t feel connection – but connection is a feeling which means that they don’t have any say in the matter of how you feel – you create that – you create the feeling of connection by the thoughts you think. If you want to feel connection then you have to think thoughts that create that for you.
Separate the facts – we had family that didn’t come for Christmas. I didn’t see them, hear from them, get a text from them, nothing. In years passed I would have made that mean all kinds of hurtful things that would just leave me feeling awful and sad. Those thoughts – those kinds of stories never helped me, served me, or had me showing up how I wanted to. I also wasn’t getting the results I wanted which was to feel connected to them. I wanted to have a better relationship with them but how?
I had to learn to separate fact from fiction. The facts were short – they weren’t there. I didn’t know why they weren’t there. When we asked they’d say things like, they’d rather be home.
Those were the facts. Those two things: They weren’t there and they said they’d rather be home. Those two things are circumstances. CIRCUMSTANCES are neutral – they don’t mean anything yet – it’s all my fill in’s – my story, my thoughts that create the feelings.
I could make it mean hurtful things about me. I could make it mean hurtful things about them which would still feel terrible in my body and not in theirs because my thoughts only hurt me. Or I could just decide that I love them. I love them when I get the opportunity to see them, to visit with them and I love them when we’re not together and because I love them I totally want them to be where they want to be on Christmas and any other day too.
I don’t want them to be somewhere they don’t want to be or can’t be and I don’t need to know all the reasons why – all the reasons why have nothing to do with me -it’s none of my business. It has everything to do with them.
My only job is to choose what kind of story I want to believe about them. What story will help me show up how I want to be?
If I say I want to be a kind and loving person then I need to choose my story accordingly. I can’t think hurtful thoughts and hope to feel loving – it doesn’t work that way – I have to think loving thoughts then I create the feeling of love.
We can feel connected to people we’ve never met because of the way we choose to think about them. You can create connection with family and friends even if they’re not showing up the way you would or the way you might want them to by choosing to think kind, compassionate, and loving thoughts about them.
You create your world by the story you tell yourself.
You can see the world as cold, dark, dreary, and hurtful or you can choose to fill in the blanks with generous, kind, compassionate thoughts.
You really do create the world you live in. You create how you feel. You create your results.
Practice separating fact and what’s fiction. It’s important to notice what’s what and clear that up because what’s fiction is optional. If you don’t like how it feels you don’t have to keep spinning that story. You can change it. You can create a different story, one that feels best and most useful for you and one that helps you show up how you want to.
I want to leave you with this quote from Byron Katie, She says,
“The world is nothing but my perception of it. I see only through myself. I hear only though the filter of my story.”
Have a beautiful week, my friends!