The Stories We Tell Ourselves

When I sit down with my flower essence clients, I find we spend a lot of time telling each other stories. Normally, the client goes on for quite some time telling me the stories of how people "done me wrong" and all the bad things that happened to make them unhappy. What I'm listening for, however, are the underlying themes behind these stories, the "core stories" that describe how the person responds to and interprets their own experiences. Ultimately, it's not what happened to you that's important (we all know people that seem to smile through adversity), but what we make of those events. Everyone has had key events in their past, often in childhood, where the young psyche perked up and said to itself "Aha! This is how life really is!" -- even when the conclusions are terribly incorrect. We can perpetuate these core stories and their immature understandings our whole lives, usually making a mess of life in the process, unless a new Aha! comes along to shake us up. Me? I like to tell stories about why stories don't work.

Whereas the normal stories are often about other people or outside events, the core stories are about the person and how they relate to the world. In rare circumstances, this theme is about what a wonderful person I am, but for most people, the underlying theme is very self-critical. It can often be summarized in a simple sentence like "I'm not lovable" or "I'm a failure at everything I do." The origins of these stories usually go back to childhood and misunderstandings within the family. Wherever they come from, however, once these themes become active in your life, they subvert all experiences in order to prove their validity. It's as though the person walks through life with blinders on, seeing only the things that agree with their story and tuning out any experience that contradicts it, making the story a self-perpetuating force. More subtly, the person can actually create experiences in their life unconsciously, as the deeper parts of their psyche reaches out into the world and attracts situations that agree with the story and the emotions behind it. The story appears "real" because the person recreates it every day. Fortunately, many typical core stories correspond closely to particular flower remedies which enable the person to break free of their hypnotic grip.

For instance, the story line that starts out "I'm always a failure, so why even try?" corresponds to the important Bach remedy Larch, which nearly everyone seems to need at some point in their lives. A Larch person feels like a failure in every endeavor and literally expects to fail no matter what they do. They develop a defeatist attitude that prevents them from even trying something new -- "Why bother? It'll never work anyway..." The fallacy in this story, what I call the "cosmic joke" for a core story, is that Larch people are often extremely competent and hard working (their way of compensating for being a "failure"), so 9 times out of 10 they come out a winner -- but only if they try. Larch helps them suspend belief in this crippling core story, give the task a whole-hearted try, and prove to themselves they can do it.

The theme that begins "There's something really disgusting and shameful about me that I must hide from others..." is typical of a Pink Monkeyflower person, another old standby remedy. While everybody has some of this "shadow material" in their psyche, these people seem obsessed with hiding this terrible blot from everyone else. There seem to be two cosmic jokes going on here. First, no matter how hard they try to hide, others can usually see the trait they're hiding anyway, or at least can see that something funny is going on. Secondly, if you ask a Pink Monkeyflower person what they are so ashamed of, it's usually something so inconsequential that the listener blurts out, "Is that all it is?" The person is often quite relieved to find their big emotional burden is actually no big deal -- you can see them physically relax before your eyes. Over time, the remedy helps remove this sense of shame. In situations where the shameful trait is the person's own sexuality (often a byproduct of early family and religious training), the remedies Crab Apple or Billy Goat Plum are sometimes the key.

A victim mentality -- "Why me?" -- is common in our culture, though it has both passive or resigned ways of showing up, as well as more aggressive and covertly angry ways. The all-time favorite remedy for victims and professional martyrs is Willow, though the Australian essence Southern Cross is a close second. These people thrive by hanging on to a bitter, resentful attitude towards life, which they express by blaming others for their misfortune. Their whole life contracts around this hard core. Willow helps them lighten up and see they can make a better life for themselves, if they simply take responsibility for their actions.

Too many core stories rob life of its joy and vitality needlessly. With a little honest self-work and some help from the flowers, it's possible to trade in destructive stories for more positive ones. Life's too short -- strive for all the happy endings you can get!