If you’ve got tiny stories that you’d rather forget than to think about again, then this is for you.
Typically, when you think about these stories, you feel: grief, shame, disgust, annoyance, fear or another completely unpleasant emotion.
I want to help you go from discomfort to a place of acceptance around your painful tiny stories—if not all the way to owning your stories with a sense of proud survivorship.
Common sense disclaimer: I’ve found my own peace and healing from my hardest stories through the steps I’m about to share. That said… before you proceed, speak about this exercise with your mental health provider. This is not medical advice. I am not a therapist or medical professional in any capacity.
You don’t have to share this with anyone. Open your notebook, Google Doc, etc. and let the story out onto the page. Transfer all your energy around the story right onto that page.
In this step, you’re focused on answering: “What happened?”
When you think about this story, how do you feel? Write that down.
Don’t think about whether that emotion is justified, or not, just write what comes up for you.
Examples: embarrassed, anger, wronged, victimized, shame, sadness, fear, anything.
Don’t do anything with that yet, just let it be for a moment.
Answering this question may feel like pouring salt in an already searing wound—especially, if you feel at fault or to blame for this story.
Please go there anyway, because what you might uncover is another story that you need to process first.
You may have said or done something terrible out of hurt you were carrying, for example. That story needs to be processed before you can feel acceptance around the story you’re currently focused on.
In many cases, you might be thinking, “Well, they were just mean and terrible to me!” If that’s the case… continue to Step 4.
This could be other people involved in the story itself: the person who hurt you, for example.
This could be a stranger, an ex-friend, or even someone near and dear to your heart in your everyday life.
Sometimes, this could even include yourself: a past version of you.
Do your best here to look at them as a whole person.
What on earth could have caused them to hurt you?
What kind of story could they be carrying?
In going there, you might find insight about the other person involved in the story. You might see a piece of their story.
It won’t alleviate your pain, per se, and it certainly doesn’t make what they did okay or an excuse. In my experience, however, it’s given me a great deal of perspective and compassion for them, which helps me detach from the story.
You might see that what happened to be more about them than it was about you. That can be a relief!
What did “what happened” mean for you? That root emotion from Step 2 may be handy here.
What did “what happened” mean about you?
Are there any stories in your head that simply aren’t true? They’re just stories? Our brains can be funny like that.
How did it change or shape you?
What has this story robbed you of?
What has this story given you insight to?
What thoughts, actions, and behaviors have you started (or stopped) since this story happened?
I know—loaded question!
Up until now, we’ve looked at the “why” behind the story and what it’s meant for you. You might feel lighter already with some of these insights. If so, great!
That’s how I felt when I learned I’m an Enneagram 5—I felt like “Finally, I understand why I am the way I am,” sort of thing.
Often, when you’re in the “why,” you might just get stuck in rumination.
Or, you might get stuck feeling like you’ve just “one up’ed” the other person (people) involved with your new perspective—which can feel good in a mischievous sort of way… but it’s not healing.
I’ve seen people set boundaries from this state of mind. Boundaries are good, but not when they come from a place of vengeance and used as a weapon.
Let’s stay humble and grow as better humans, shall we?
Play with these questions:
How would you like to feel about this story?
What would it take to heal from this story?
What would it mean for you to let go and heal from this story?
What would you like the future of your relationship (with anyone involved in this story) to look and feel like? Be sure to check your expectations on this one—sometimes we expect people to give what they simply can’t.
You’ve looked at the story in hindsight. You’ve considered the intentions, the other people involved, your beliefs around what this story means, and the impact it’s made on your life thus far.
Let’s move forward with your new perspective.
What do you need to say about this story?
Who do you need to say it to?
Think in terms of what you may need to “get off your chest.” Or, to “tell off” the person who hurt you…. maybe even forgive them.
In this step, when the story revolves around someone who hurt you, write them a letter and tell them everything you need to say.
Often, pouring your emotions and thoughts onto the page, in this way, may be the first time your truest thoughts come to the surface. You just might blow your own mind with insight!
You’ll likely find yourself wildly emotional (extra tissues are likely necessary) and feel like you’re actually talking to the person at hand.
You may feel like you’re saying something hurtful.
Well, guess what? You don’t have to give it them. You can crumble it up and burn it after.
You’re writing this to them, but you’re writing this FOR YOU.
And absolutely yes, you can write this letter to a version of your past self. You can write this letter to someone you’ve lost. You can write this letter to whatever fire (thing) that sparked your pain. Maybe it was a literal fire that started (or another natural disaster), not a person. The “who” doesn’t matter.
What matters is clearing out all those thoughts and emotional that are stuck inside you.
So with that, go write your heart out.
Easier said than done—I know.
The truth is, you might not be able to do this right away. It may take time, still, but now you move forward with insight you didn’t have before.
I hope those insights offload some of the burden and that, in time, your pain becomes your strength and a piece of your wisdom.
If you’re still feeling a great deal of pain: for sure get professional help.
In my personal experience, if I still feel discomfort with the story at this point, then I’m probably still feeling stuck in shame or fear.
Shame: I’m afraid of what people will think of me if I share this part of me, because I still feel shame around it. I may feel out of integrity with myself (a strong, core value of mine). Or, I’m afraid of making similar choices that create more of these shame-fueled stories—double shame is scary AF.
To heal from this place, I find that I need time to grow my self-trust and confidence. In the meantime, professional help to come up with a personalized game plan is a great idea!
Fear: In relationship-based painful tiny stories, if I still don’t understand why they hurt me (or maybe I do have more compassion for them), but I’m stuck thinking, “I cannot pretend like it didn’t happen,” then I assess myself a little further.
Usually, I “can’t” let go of the pain, because I feel like:
The good thing about being here is that there’s a sense of story acceptance—which is the ultimate goal of this article. You should be able to freely talk about the story without total discomfort.
It’s not the story that’s so hard anymore, it’s the relationship you need to figure out what to do with. I could write a whole other article on how to proceed here, but I digress…
Imagine you meet someone going through a similar story.
What would you say to them?
What kind of pep talk would you give them?
Your final assignment:
Write to them from the place you’re at today.
When you reach a certain level of acceptance of your painful tiny story, you’ll be able to talk about it much more openly than before. You’ll have found self-acceptance, trust in yourself, a lesson you’ve learned, compassion and forgiveness.
You don’t have to have all the answers for this person—you might still be knee deep in the thick of the story, after all.
Still, imagine you’re a few steps (perspective shifts & insights) ahead of this person you’ve met. Use your story to, at the very least, let them know they’re not alone. There’s a quote I love for this:
Alright, this began on the heavy side, but I hope in the end you’re feeling lighter!
Please do drop me a line for whatever has come up for you.
To healing and responding to your stories—cheers!
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