The experience of several of my patients this summer has got me thinking about the stories we share about ourselves.
Like buses, there appears to have been a spate of knee replacement operations this spring and summer amongst my flock of regulars. Clearly this has brought concern, worry and anxiety as well as the eventual realisation that the long term gains far outstrip the short term inconvenience and discomfort. Each person has had their own experience and this has had a great deal to do with attitude, general health, listening to and taking appropriate advice. However, there appears to be a ‘dark’ side lurking to this experience that every person has experienced; that of the experience of others!
We all love to share our stories. Should it be at the expense of others? Every individual this summer has mentioned the ‘story of doom’ that a so-called friend, family member or neighbour has dumped on them, detailing how things have ‘gone wrong’ for them.
I have to say I’ve been in stitches (not literally) regarding some of the thoughtless and crass over-sharings that have been vented in my treatment room. My dark humour gives way when it clearly has an impact on the wellbeing of patients, soon to go under the knife.
So, I suppose the question behind this blog entry is….’if our stories do not positively contribute to someones challenge, is it better to keep quiet?’ I think the answer is a resounding YES!
Stories help us relate to others. They can help us off load and give us a sense of being heard or better understood. Which is fine. Stories that undermine the experiences of others or bring messages of doom and woe are unwelcome. This neither helps the teller nor, the listener as it makes them look thoughtless and lacking in empathy.
Putting a filter on our stories of doom for the benefit of others also has a wider implication for ourselves. Think about the back story you present to the world for a moment.
An acquaintance of mine regularly crowbars the fact that they were made redundant several years back. It is understandable that such a traumatic experience leaves a very big impression. They have gone on to create a fabulously successful business, with more opportunity and creative expression than the previous job could ever have offered. They make more money, have more control over their lives and are fundamentally better off in every respect. So why hold on to the story of doom?
By looking inward only they can answer that question. It is a question we should all ask of ourselves to make sure we are holding on to the good stories and not dragging the bad around with us unnecessarily.
Here’s hoping you are living ‘happily ever after’!