“You think you can find me? I’m dust. I’m the wind. I’m the darkness in your shadow…” Tennessee Williams
(This post is part 2 of a series. Read Part 1 here)
We develop our own Defining Narrative quite unconsciously, fairly early in life, in a kind of interpretive dance with our circumstances and the people in our lives. The basic process goes something like this:
“One’s real life is often the life that one does not lead.” ~ Ocsar Wilde
I’ve been thinking a lot about the shaping power of story. In particular, the incredible power of the stories I tell myself about who I am, where I come from, and the person I am capable of becoming.
We are an innately narrative species. It’s impossible for us to perceive the universe outside of the context of story. We understand things and people by constructing stories around them to explain them to ourselves.
Our stories tell us who we are. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say it this way: We become defined by the stories we tell ourselves. I don’t just mean the shallower mini-tales promoted by New Age philosophy and positive psychology, such as “I am smart and successful and people really like me” or “I am not a smoker, I am not a smoker, I am not a smoker,” etc. Those have some power, or not, depending on how much the one saying them is willing to buy into his own PR. No, what I’m talking about are the deep stories that live inside each of us. That unique foundational story you embrace that defines who you are, and who you aren’t. It’s the primary story you are living in, and living out, every day. It’s the story you have created to explain yourself to yourself, to define your identity and your role in the world.
In other words, your Defining Narrative.