Who Would You Be Without Your Story?

blue butterflyAnytime you find yourself mired in a troubling relationship, it’s useful to examine your role in creating and/or maintaining the situation, even if you are certain the other person is to blame.

To discover your part, look no farther than your own thoughts and beliefs — the story you tell others – and most importantly, yourself – about what happened to you and what it means.

Our stories are powerful beyond measure. They filter what we see, feel and experience. They can imprison us, and they can also set us free.

In our twelve-step forgiveness process, we examine these stories, deconstruct them, and ultimately, rewrite them. It’s in the deconstruction process that we begin to see that our grievance stories – the ones connected to painful relationships and situations – are invariably based on false assumptions and interpretations. Perhaps they were valid at one time, but when held up to the light of day, it becomes abundantly clear that they no longer serve us.

Recently, I asked one of my clients if he was ready to let go of his old story. There was a long pause. His grievance story has threaded through his entire life, from childhood to the present. He’d been working on it for awhile, chipping away at important aspects of it. Yet I sensed something was holding him back. Finally he responded softly: Who will I be without my story?

This was a light-bulb moment for both of us. Our stories – even when based on false assumptions and interpretations – are a part of us. They are known to us, familiar. On some level, they have protected us, enabling us to survive and make sense of difficult circumstances. Letting go of the old story means stepping into the unknown.

Our stories become part of our identity. They don’t define who we are, but they do define who we think we are. As I told my client, the key is to remember your true identity, who you really are.

Yes, the old story has been a familiar cocoon. But forgiveness enables us to transcend the old story, so we can emerge as the glorious butterfly, spreading our wings in the full realization of our potential.


About Eileen Barker

EILEEN BARKER has been writing and speaking on forgiveness, and guiding people who need to either forgive themselves or someone else, for many years. A practicing litigation lawyer who rejected the traditional adversarial role, Eileen has focused her practice on mediation, helping thousands of people resolve disputes outside of court. This work led her into a deep exploration of forgiveness as it relates to resolving conflict and making peace, both with others and oneself.

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