What Story About Life Do You Tell?
Those who study human behavior describe two primary ways of seeing life. This approach is sometimes called the “human iceberg effect,” because most people can explain their beliefs that are above the water line but are unconscious to the 95% of their thoughts that are “underwater.” That hidden 95% is what runs most of their internal dialogue.
If you have not paid attention to your beliefs that are underneath the waterline, you may not be aware of the stories you tell yourself about life. Here are the two basic stories that explain life:
- You explain life through a “me-centric” internal dialogue. Your job is to watch out for yourself and any problems that may arise that prevent you from getting what you want or think you need. Your focus is on what is good for you and, when life does not go as you wish, there must be someone or something to blame. To survive and thrive, you take control in hopes to minimize feeling like a Victim to the problems that arise. In this story, ultimately life is scary and cannot be trusted, so you must defend yourself, often unconsciously, while marginalizing others, and cultures, that are different from yours.
- You explain life through “we-centric” internal dialogue. You see the meaning of life as a mysterious web of interconnectivity that requires an open-hearted approach to continuous learning. Life is full of paradoxes and requires that you become comfortable with not knowing. You accept that your job is to become more self-aware, taking full responsibility for your beliefs and actions, which is not always easy because of the uncertainty, but it is the journey you have chosen. You believe deeply in the Creator essence of all people, including yourself. You cultivate and strengthen your unique voice and gifts so you can contribute to a world that works for all.
The American culture is rooted in the me-centric explanation that appreciates self-reliance, independence, and rugged individualism. While it is OK to a point, it also can marginalize those who are different which develops “us and them” thinking, while seeding extreme competition and a win-at-all-cost mentality. In this interpretation of life, the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) often emerges, creating Victims, Persecutors, and the hope for a powerful Rescuer that will maintain the me-centric culture.
In a world that is heading toward 10 billion people by the year 2050, it is essential that we, together, nurture a “we-centric” explanation of life. The TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)® roles of Creator, Challenger, and Coach contain values and principles based upon the we-centric view of life.
One place we can notice our me-centric story arise is when we get defensive and stop listening to each other. Our defensive listening kicks in when we feel we must preserve our individuality and exert our need to be right. We cannot listen to be right and listen to connect with an open mind and heart at the same time.
Notice if you listen from a me-centric point of view. Pause and check in with your body and then ask yourself: “Do I actually want to hear what the other person has to say?”
Another question to ask yourself is: “Do I believe in the Creator essence in other people, including people who are different than I am?” How you answer these questions will provide clues to which story you tell yourself about life.
Shifting from a “me” story to a “we” reality is not easy. With intention, open-hearted listening, and exploring with curiosity, we can make this shift together. Our collective survival depends on it.