Dealing with outstanding issues, guilt, blame and forgiveness

What happens when someone that you don’t really know says something to you or about you and you don’t know whether they are being serious or just joking.

Imagine if one day, you are sitting at your desk at work and the boss phones you and asks you to go to his office.

If this is a regular occurrence, and you have a positive relationship with your boss, this won’t be a big issue for you. If you have regular meetings with the boss but didn’t expect this one, you may feel a little nervous about this meeting, especially if you are yourself in a bit of a low mood.

If you have never been called into the boss’s office, you don’t know this boss very well and you have been feeling particularly low or stressed lately, your mind is going to kick into over-drive. Imagine the stories you will start making up to make some sense about what is going on. We all know that sinking feeling we get in our stomachs.  

One of the best and most effective things that I have picked up from my reading and thinking is an idea from Brene Brown:”The stories that we make up”.

We practice it as a family with some wonderful results. My wife in particular  has learned to use it to great affect and has been able to tackle several longstanding issues and concerns.

Here’s my take on it:

We all tend to hold onto things in our mind, and heart, that concern us and go unresolved, sometimes just for a few minutes, sometimes for generations. Left to fester they grow a life of their own and become myths, legend or worst of all, fact  within family or just inside our own head.

Whether or not we realise it, we all do it to a greater or lesser degree. We, our brains, do it to make sense of things that we don’t understand. We have to do it, if something is not familiar to us the first thing that we do is check that there is no threat to us.

If we experience something unfamiliar to us we look for references in our memory that tell us what is happening, what will happen next and how we should respond to it. This method works very well if we have a memory to reference. If we don’t, the mind will search our memories for that next best fit, to make sense of it. Instinctively, because we haven’t been able to establish the level of threat that exists, the brain will go on the defensive, assuming that a threat does exist and  preparing us for a flight, flight or freeze response.

It will most likely tell us that we are in danger and are not good enough to be able to deal with the threat. The brain makes-up stories, negative and self-damaging stories.

This is exacerbated by our prevailing mood at the time. If we are feeling down, our response is more negative. If we are generally in good mood then we will respond more positively

Putting this into practice

Having acknowledged that we do indeed make up these stories, we can set about using this to ‘clear the air’.

Start by writing down the story that you have made up inside your head, just really roughly. This is called a Sh**ty first draft. Don’t edit it as you write it down. If the issue is a relatively small issue and something you are confident you can manage you can do this in your head and skip the next step.

Now read through the story and start weeding out everything that you know to not be true. You will start to realise just how ridiculous some of what you have made-up really is.

Once you have a story that could, might or might not be true, you are ready to get this issue resolved.

Sit down with the person that you want to confront and start out by explaining the way that we make up stories.

Explain that this  technique is a way of dealing with issues in a non-judgmental, no confrontational way.

Point out that you understand and accept that the story that you are about to tell them is just your story and that you have made it up. You are not accusing or blaming them for anything.

If they acknowledge that they understand what this is all about, ask them if you can tell them your story.

Tell them your story, the one without all the bulls**t that you took out yourself.

Once you have finished, simply ask them for their feedback on your story.

Invariably they with begin by thanking you for raising the subject, especially if this is something that had also been playing n their mind.

Listen carefully, and I think you may be surprised at what you hear back and how easy it is to hear.

We practice this at home all the time. We often do it when we are just fooling around, but it gives us a chance to practice.

While the stories stay inside our head they will fester and be more damaging to ourselves than to anyone else.

My wife is particularly strong at using the “The stories we make-up” strategy. She uses it at work, with our sons, with me and now looks forward to confronting unresolved issues from her past. She is Rising Greatly.

Your turn . .. . . please let us know your thoughts or ask any questions you may have ……..


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2 Responses to Dealing with outstanding issues, guilt, blame and forgiveness

  1. Fiona says:

    I guess there must be sometimes the story we make up might be as bad as we think…What then??


    • Graeme says:

      Writing your first draft will help you sort the ‘fact from the fiction’. You need to differentiate your reactions from your emotions; a feeling of grief can cause people to react angrily,feeling sad may be a sign of shame, failure or grief. It are these emotions, not your reactions that you need to deal with.
      Once you have sorted what you think is the truth you need to get it checked, get someone else to give you feedback on your story. This can be a trusted friend, mentor or family member. It should be someone that is removed from the situation so that they don’t simply provide you with their opinion on the facts. You can then redraft your story and go back to them.
      This whole process may be instantaneous or it may take a few years.
      Because we are harder on ourselves than anyone else the stories we make up are very seldom as bad as we think.
      Always be willing to get expert advice if you are struggling to make any headway with your problems. It may be a sign that something more serious is at play.


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