Experience Stories

Today I posted on twitter:

“It continues to amaze and baffle me how much the interior mind creates the experience of the exterior world. What do you do with that?”

It simply deserves more than just that, so I am expounding on it here. Play with me?

First, let me not imply that the interior world is making the exterior world in some magical way. I can’t think coffee and have coffee show up in my cup. The world of objects is a world of objects. However, those objects remain meaningless until we shape a story or stories about them. A rock is a rock until I say, this is the rock I picked up on the beach the day we played with the sand together and ate that delicious chocolate carmel tart. Now it is a rock that has a memory attached to it. It has a meaning for me. And that meaning is entirely in my own internal world. I can tell you that story, and maybe some of what is meaningful about it to me can be meaningful to you (but even if I tell the story well, it will only be a small portion of what is alive for me about it).

I am driving on 90/94 past downtown Chicago. A driver comes up fast behind me, swerves around me, and cuts me off before speeding ahead. These are the facts. And the internal experience I have could take several different paths. I could make up a story that this person is a selfish jerk, a menace to society, and probably thinks of himself as a race car driver. (And then what will I do in response to him? honk? give him the bird?) Or I could make up a story that the driver is racing to get to the hospital because they are a doctor and a patient urgently needs their skill in order to stay alive. (And then what will I do in response to him? move out of the way?).

What happens to my body and my frame of mind as a result of either of these stories? In the first, my body is most likely to tense up or get angry, frentic. In the second, my body is more likely to calm down. I have no evidence by which I can judge whether the first story or the second story is accurate. None. I could imagine the driver of that car is insane and the demons in his mind propel him to behave this way. Or any number of many other possibilities of how the facts can be interpreted. I get to choose which story I am going to tell.

I get to choose the story I want to tell about the worlds I inhabit as part of a dance between the facts that I am aware of and the interior mental models and beliefs I have. The experience I have is not some default or single choice. I get to choose. Most people do not realize this. For most of my life, I didn’t realize this.

Doing so has created profound shifts in how I interact with others, the sense of power and control I have in my life, my sense of agency, my ability to create options for action, my capacity to be compassionate, and my ability to stay “grounded” in the flux of changes around me.

Step 1: Realize that you are choosing.

Step 2: Realize that there are options. Pick the ones that are useful for having the experience you want to be having to the degree that the evidence is not being ignored.

Step 3: Recognize that while there is choice, my ability to communicate and connect with others is in some ways limited by my ability to have an overlap in the story I am telling about my experience of something. This isn’t about making random choices because the choice is there…there are choices in the creation of the story and your internal experience of it that interconnect with other humans.

Step 4: Response and actions are not foretold by the facts before you, they are foretold by the story you weave around those facts. Engage the story you are telling about your experience when you want to create options to act upon.

Make your experience of the world something you actively engage in co-creating.