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Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

January 30th Blog: Watch Your Narrative

look past the muddle

From Amazon writer Jim Emerson's description of the movie Blade Runner (Director's Cut):

"When Ridley Scott's cut of Blade Runner was finally released in 1993, one had to wonder why the studio hadn't done it right the first time--11 years earlier. This version is so much better, mostly because of what's been eliminated (the ludicrous and redundant voice-over narration and the phony happy ending) rather than what's been added (a bit more character development and a brief unicorn dream). Star Harrison Ford originally recorded the narration under duress at the insistence of Warner Bros. executives who thought the story needed further "explanation"; he later confessed that he thought if he did it badly they wouldn't use it. (Moral: Never overestimate the taste of movie executives.)"

don't suffer in advance
Guess what?  Today you are invited to be director of your own narrative.  Our brains are pretty much always running these ludicrous voice-overs. Sometimes we are clear which lousy executives are shouting the narrative-- childhood ghosts, advertising and pop culture, internalized 'ism's-- stinking thinking that binds us even as we claim to reject it. Other times we have drunk the poison ourselves and don't even question the difference between our judgments and the facts.

Be Here Now
Today's challenge is to notice the running commentary that is the voice-over on your actual experience. Your job is first to catch it and simply observe it.  Pretend you have one of those old-fashioned metal "click-counters" and just note every time you catch yourself narrating your experience with a judgment or explanatory thought.  For most people, this will pretty much be "constantly", so you don't need to do this for long.

At some point of the day, take the time to investigate this
narrative by simply giving it a name. If it's a worry about something in the past-- a regret-- just name it "past thought". If it's a worry about something that hasn't yet happened, call it "future thought". If it's an evaluation of a current situation, decide whether it is a fact, or a judgment and call it one of those. This last part is harder than you think, because we tend to believe our judgments and see them as reality. 

Some simple examples:
 "That checker called me an idiot". Assuming that happened, it's a fact.
"That checker is so rude."= present thought, judgment. Possibly a very reasonable judgment, but still a judgment. 

"I shouldn't have come to this store". That's a judgment.  Put it in past thought.
"This is going to be a horrible day". That's a prediction, a worry-- a future thought.

room to breathe
There are several points to this exercise. The first is to be aware of our internal dialogue, so we can exercise more choice about it. We are probably paying at least hypnotic attention to it, so give it some real attention and decide how much of it you want to swallow whole. Being an observer rather than consumer of our thoughts gives us a little breathing room.

Figuring out the difference between judgments and facts allows the opportunity to look for alternate explanations. I remember the time I was frustrated during an all-night shift at an information reference center. This was back in the dinosaur pre-internet days, and we were usually busy enough providing information not easily available elsewhere, so my patience snapped with the fourth caller in a row who wanted me to be their free directory service.When I snottily told she could use her phone book, the caller explained she was losing her vision from a genetic disease and wasn't able to see it. We don't know other people's stories and cannot always be sure why they act in certain ways. When the stakes are low, assume benign intent. At least don't personalize it. 

Another good reason to try this is to see the benefits of being in the present when there is nothing to be done in this moment about worries or regrets. We avoid suffering in advance or suffering again. 

Try it for a few minutes today, and just notice what happens.

Quote of the day, from Guns N' Roses' Axl Rose (don't judge me): "We take it for granted we know the whole story – we judge a book by its cover and read what we want between selected lines."

Bonus song of the day:   Yardbirds: Mr. You're a Better Man
Video of the day: 

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