the power of stories

Today we ask that you look at the human attachment to drama.

Humans love drama and stories.  It is a defining trait of mankind.  The instinctive love of myths and stories arises early in childhood.  Stories are the foundation of the world religions — archetypal myths played out in seasonal cycles, passed down through the generations.  This has been going on since humans gained the capacity to speak and tell stories.

Stories are extremely powerful.  Truly, they are the most powerful thing in the human reality.  They are more powerful than your greatest scientific achievements, they are more powerful than your most destructive weapons.

Stories can be beneficial, or harmful.  But it is important to acknowledge their power.

This is because stories, myths, and dramas define people’s perception of reality itself.

Think of someone who is very different from you, someone whose beliefs clash with yours.  Perhaps someone with a very different political or religious orientation.

What is the difference, really, between this person and you?

They believe different stories about reality.

When it comes to religion and politics, it is very likely that they grew up being told very different stories than the ones you were told.  And they believe them.

People can and do change their stories and beliefs, but this is extremely difficult for most humans.

This is because people’s identities are rooted in the stories they believe.  Questioning those stories means questioning their very identity — something that most people are not able or willing to do, because this feels deeply threatening.

Consider: how did Adolph Hitler trigger so much destruction in the world?

Hitler was an extremely persuasive storyteller.  His stories were lies, but people believed them.

Without his storytelling ability, Hitler could not have done very much harm at all.  

So you see, stories can be quite dangerous, when they are used to sow hatred and violence.

The Middle East is an area of deep conflict in your world.  It has been so for a very long time.  This is because of the stories believed by the people who live there.  If those people knew nothing of those stories, do you think there would be nearly as much violence?

Humans communicate through storytelling.  When you speak to people, or read what they say online, or listen to people on television — always, you are being told a story.

Sometimes you are conscious that the stories that you take in are fictional, because it is obvious.  You are watching a made-up drama on TV or in the movies.  You are reading a book.

But often people have a very hard time distinguishing “fiction” from “fact.”  And of course even stories people know to be fiction can powerfully influence people.  

All these stories you are told take on a kind of life inside your mind.  They become the basis for an internal voice — a voice that is, by its very nature, dramatic.

It processes everything you experience in terms of stories and narratives.  It labels people as allies and enemies.  It projects possible futures that are quite fictional — since they haven’t happened anywhere outside your mind — but they will seem very real to you.  In this mental story, you are the protagonist in an endless personal drama.  Usually you are engaged in some sort of struggle, because that is what the characters in all stories do.  Characters in stories struggle with external adversity and internal weakness.

This dramatic voice in your head can make a big drama out of anything, no matter how trivial.  It can make a big drama out of going shopping or paying a bill.  Everything is fodder for drama, to this voice.

So just look at this.

Look at the stories other people tell you, that you believe.

Look at the stories the voice in your head tells you, that you believe.

Are these stories really true?  Are you sure? 

Is believing these stories healthy for you?

Do the stories give you a sense of well-being, a sense of a loving order in the universe?

Or do the stories make you feel crazed, stressed, and victimized?  Do they arouse resentment of other people?  Do they arouse dissatisfaction with your life situation?  Do they make you feel like you live in a hostile reality, where you are constantly threatened and struggling?

Just pay attention.  This is not about judgment, just about observation.

Just notice how you feel after being exposed to stories — whether they are stories told to you by people you know, or strangers you have never met online, in books and magazines, on TV and in movies.  

Do the stories increase your sense of well-being?  Do they make you feel healthy and empowered?  Do you learn and grow as a person from them?  Or do they make you frightened and tense?  Do they make you feel like a helpless victim?

Remember, stories are extremely powerful.  So just learn to pay attention to the stories you are told, the stories you tell yourself, and the underlying messages in those stories.

If a story make you feel tense in your body and arouses a sense of misery and victimhood in your mind — perhaps you should not believe it.  Perhaps you should stop listening to that storyteller.

Drama can be wonderful, but in general people are addicted to it, and take in far more drama than they can process in a healthy way.

Drama is like chocolate.  A small amount of high quality chocolate is there to be savored, and enjoyed.

But a large amount of chocolate, especially when it is of poor quality, will only sicken you.

So be discerning about the stories you take in.  Eat only the good stuff — and don’t overeat.