It was when my manager told me, “There’s a mistake in this document,” that I heard an old and diminishing message in my head. “You’re so stupid.” Yes, the stories we tell ourselves can twist and distort the truth.
“You’re stupid” was an old childhood story I often told myself. After several occasions of my Dad calling my mother and me the stupid females, I failed grade seven and later dropped out of high school. I had actively grounded the evidence to support the lie of being The Village Idiot. Dad no longer needed to make negative comments about my intelligence. I had well integrated them.
After marrying a good man, dealing with my anger management issues, and entering therapy, I learned about re-writing my story! Eventually, as a therapist, I helped many others retell the common stories we tell ourselves.
Stories have key themes, crucial moments and influential players. They include relationships with ourselves, our past, families, friendships, lovers and co-workers.
The Role of Archetypes in Stories
For centuries stories have been told about characters who are complex and demonstrate both light and shadow sides to who they are. Archetypes include The Child, The Mother, The Father, The Victim, The Rescuer, The Persecutor, The Hero, The King, The Queen, The Princess, The Prince, The Clown, The Philosopher, The Slave, The Workaholic, The Bully, The Seductress, The Leader, The Grandmother, and The Godfather, and yes, The Village Idiot.
Let’s imagine you are fired from your job. What archetype might or characters might be in your story? You could blame the person who fired you, a tale about you being The Victim of The Persecutor. Alternatively, you could point all fingers at your inadequacies and tell a story about being The Idiot.
As we repeat a story we strengthen and deepen it. If, however, we awaken to the stories we tell ourselves, we can deliberately lighten and change them.
Transform Your Childhood Story
If you repeatedly find yourself in The Victim role, remind yourself that you have choices. Adults have choices and power that children don’t have. Another perspective is to take your story and see if you can create a humorous story. Be The Clown who somersaults into temporary freedom. Alternatively, you could also imagine being The Hero who rides off on a white stallion ready to help others face the same fate. You could also try-on The Philosopher who ponders the wisdom derived from the experience.
If you find yourself stuck to re-write your story, consider seeing a therapist. Then commit yourself to explore and heal your story that probably reflects your childhood wounds.
Change Workplace Water-cooler Stories
There are collective stories told in many workplaces around the water-cooler or lunch table. Next time you are gathered with your co-workers listen. Notice when stories are repeated and describe a particular perception of what might or might not be based in truth.
Notice if your organization’s mission statement is illustrated in these work-day tales. Susan Luke, a corporate mythologist, assists organizations to find and share their stories. She builds on stories that demonstrate their vision and values. She is hired because these workplace sagas affect both the well being of employees and the corporation as a whole.
Practice telling stories that enhance your workplace vitality, harmony and satisfaction. Here is the invitation:
- Emotionally step back from your old and dysfunctional group story.
- Notice the facts, characteristics and dynamics that give rise to the story.
- Identify what role or roles you and others tend to play.
- Name the problem.
- Create a new story that the separates the problem from the roles people play, yet focuses on their strengths.
- Try out a different role—perhaps The Hero or The Mediator.
- Use the new story to explore new possibilities of working together.
Example of A Workplace Old Story
“We’re in a mess and I (The Rescuer) worry every night. Jane (The Investigator) told me that Alice (The Warrior Woman) is forever opening her obsessed mouth and making this problem bigger than it is while Jack (The Schemer) is busy schmoozing with the manager so he won’t get fired. Jim (The Philosopher) sits around with ideas and does nothing. I don’t know about you but I’m fed up with Joe (The Leader) blaming us.”
Story Theme: Work Sucks
Example of A Workplace New Story
“There are solutions! I (The Rescuer) see how we can come together. Jim (The Philosopher) told me he has a number of ideas to solve the problem. Imagine if Jack (The Schemer) checks with the manager while Jane (The Investigator) finds out which ideas are plausible. Alice (Warrior Woman) with her enthusiasm is the perfect person to write a proposal with Joe (The Leader) presenting it. Are you as excited about this story’s possible outcome I am, or do you have some other ideas?”
Theme: We Work Well Together
What work story are you ready to rewrite?
Please check out these related posts:
Patricia Morgan MA CCC helps her readers, clients, and audiences lighten their load, brighten their outlook, and strengthen their resilience. To go from woe to WOW call 403.242.7796 or email a request.