The ultimate significance of stories
A story versus a telling of "what happened"
Are belief actually stories?
Seeing that stories aren't the truth
Examples of stories - the justifications
Take the pledge
Quick learning

"Stories 'r us. 

But it seems like we could certainly make up better ones and not believe the utter nonsense of many of them."

                                                        The BuddhaKahuna

Definition: An account or recital of an event or a series of events, either true or fictitious. 

For years, a "story" has been used to pass down information, often in a more interesting format, to other generations (and sometimes, of course, for amusement).  But it is well known in psychology that we also tell ourselves stories, which are often tales about how we are, how others are, or a weaving together of justifications or explanations of how things happen.  Humans have done this since ancient days.  The process of how and why we do this is nicely discussed in the article, and the book it refers you to, The Believing Brain, which is, in my opinion, essential knowledge to help you unravel the web (story) you've weaved.   (See the summary piece on the site:  The Believing Brain.)

In this piece, we focus on the story we tell ourselves, but also cover what might be useful overall.

"As you repeat your 'story' over and over again, you memorize it, driving it deep into your brain, so that it comes right back up as a way to live your future. 

You are not literally your past.  And your past does not determine your future.

However, repeating your stories over and over creates a future that is very much like your past, as they are the models available to operate in.

It is vital that you 'see' your stories for what they are and then consciously, as if your life depended on it, stop telling your stories - anymore, ever.  Leave them behind - then you have the space to create that which you want."


"How do you spot a story?  Identify what actually happened and what is.  Everything left over is a story, a made-up, and not something to believe - unless you choose to be a fool." 

                                      ALL THAT IS IN ONE'S LIFE
(The big box equals all there is in life and contains the smaller box...)

The formula for success in life is simple:  Pick the made-ups that serve you and eliminate or rework the ones that don't....

When you eliminate what fills up alot of the space, then there is room for creating what is valuable. 

And if you follow this process, you will, guaranteed, live a great life.


Jim Loehr, one of the great consultants who transforms others' personal and business lives, in the flyleaf of his book "The Power Of Story": 

"Yet, while our stories profoundly affect how others see us and we see ourselves, too few of us even recognize that we're telling stories, or what they are, or that we can change them - and, in turn, transform our very destinies."

"Stories make sense of chaos; they organize our many divergent experiences into a coherent thread; they shape our entire reality.  And far too many of our stories are dysfunctional, in need of serious editing."

Telling a story contributes to one being stuck in a way that doesn't work in life.  It also contributes to the reinforcement of the primitive brain's recordings of beliefs that are not true.  (Read:  The Story That Caused My Life, So Far.)


There are things that occur (happen).  If we could describe what those were, with no additions, we would simply have a telling of the facts of what happened. 

To help distinguish the added elements that were made up, we must separate out the facts and then what is left is the "made up".  The process is used all over the place in psychology, but this approach may be helpful:  separating out what happened from all that is said. 

That something that we added is a "story", which will wrap around a version of what happened (either accurately told or not). 

A story is only a problem if it is merged with and becomes part of what actually happened. 

People who tell stories will spend far longer in conversation than would a scientist or problem solver who just talks of what is relevant to the matter at hand.  Any other purpose of a story is for entertainment or explaining why something is.  The explanation is often incorrect, but what does the real harm is that it is often dysfunctional and not logically thought out - yet we'll use it to run our lives.

There is "the truth" and there is everything else, which is, of course, "not the truth". 

It is useless and foolish to believe in the "not truth", yet many of us do so.  In that regard, we are like children believing their nightmares are real (true), yet we are supposed to be smarter, more logical, and more systematic about our thinking.

It could be laughable to see the degree that we believe in our stories, yet there is reason for great sadness in seeing what people lose in their lives as a result of believing in these fairy tales.   

(I think it would be useful to read Laurence Platt's article Tell Me A Story, to further get the distinction required for understanding.  It also relates this to a "racket".)


Some are.

Saying "I believe that if I jump off of this 10 story building gravity will cause me to potentially suffer physically damage" is a true, scientific statement.  It includes a true law and a reasoned cause and effect.  So, it is not a story.

(Of course, we should also be aware of a story that an unaware person can make up on the way down, especially if they are not aware of the sudden stop at the other end "well, so far, so good" or "isn't this thrilling!".  Hard to believe, of course, but plenty of people make up stories that deny or minimize the ultimate consequences of drinking, poor health management, not being productive, etc. and etc.)

Saying "I believe I am not good enough" has no provable basis.  It is an opinion, which is a reflection of a belief system.   It is something we made up to explain something about the past and/or why the future will be as the past.  Yet, although any rational thinking process would say otherwise, people believe this as if it were an actual fact. 

The conclusion:  Yes, many beliefs are just stories.  And as long as we continue to believe them we will keep on being "at the effect" of them and not being masters of our thinking and our lives.  We will continue being stuck in our lives, living our past over and over.

We would apply to stories the same criteria we would apply to beliefs (and vice versa, of course). 


Byron Katie famously came out of years of depression by suddenly "getting it" that she could apply the Truth Test.   She asked "Is it true?" and if the answer was "yes", then she pushed the question further "Is it provably true?", as we often see our beliefs as being true.  (Read about her in the Truth Test page and in Success After Darkness - Depression And Solving It.  The latter is interesting in that some people will say that, despite the fact that others have overcome it, they know that they could not overcome it!)   When people inaccurately believe that they "know" something they are confusing "belief" that is reinforced so much that it appears to be factual.   


"I am this way because of my mother" is a story.  It attributes something to one's mother that cannot be proved.  The person is that way due to a myriad of events and interpretations and decisions of that person is a relative fact.


Unless needed to forward some understanding or problem solution, you would never tell a story.  If you told a story for that purpose then it would be a telling of "fact" - the "fact" is that this was the story I told myself, and I see that it is just a story and not the truth.

Once you've used the story for a progressive purpose and finished the usefulness of it, you would then never, ever repeat the story.  You would give it up, never to pass your lips.  The purpose, of course, is to stop reinforcing the story and to help clear the space so that I can create a future not based on or stuck in the past.

I hereby agree to this:

Signed:  ______________________________________   ___/___/___


Read Part IV in The Course Syllabus For The Landmark Forum.  Read about stories and the vicious circle they keep a person in.   In the Landmark Insights blog, the article Trumping The Vicious Circle, Changing The Game offers additional insights into "stories".  (Note that external links often get "broken", so you have to enter the term into a search engine to get the relevant information.  See their video vignette on "the vicious circle' under Video, click on See It In Action, then on picture in upper right.  Watch the others, too. 

Warning on this:  After I first read the above and heard the definition in the workshop, I thought, as well as many others, that I understood it, but it took the process of coaching and of people sharing their thoughts to actually clarify it to a whole new level of understanding.

Miscellaneous comments:

A person who is less effective or ineffective, depending on the degree of the following, will tell a lot of stories, such that factual content will be a mere fraction of the total being said. 

Something that did not occur at the time but was thrown in for another purpose is also a "story", an embellishment  of what actually happened.  In that form it might be a "justification" or a blaming:  it's my mother's fault for how I am (no matter how dressed up in psychological sophistication).  it is not a current fact, it is an intended addition in order to get some unspecified payoff that is intangible but not in the real world results area. 

Sharing the best estimate of how the person talking felt at the time is a probable fact.  If it is thrown in for  any purpose other than to add useful or relevant information for problem solving, then  it  is an added piece, similar to a story. 

Notes for later:

A happening plus something made up about it...
A story is something made up about something that actually exists in the real world, but it is not a factual conversation about the actual thing itself. 

X happened is an observation of fact (though it could have been misseen).  A description of what occurred with  nothing added is a fact or at least an attempt at a fact.  It is not a story.

That person looked mean is an attempt at a fact,  but probably just a story.

When something is not scientifically independently observable and agreed to, then it is something "made-up", which we lump into the category of "story". 

A person who is effective in life will often not  spend time with stories, as they are a waste of time.  That person will describe what happened as objectively as possible and then choose a response of what to do to create a desired result.  

truth vs. untruth.

I couldn't stand that....

be clear on who you are, whichever level of "you" you choose.



                                     EVERYTHING ELSE IS MADE UP
                                   MOSTLY ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED. 



  Creating a future story:        Plans, goals, creations
See the sidebar  below and know that much of what is in psychology  is not the truth:

Small % = what happened
Big % = a bunch of stories

You can replace the stories - and live a very different future.