Deborah Hill Cone
Deborah Hill Cone is a Herald columnist

Deborah Hill Cone: Time to rewrite the story of your life

Everyone seems to be going on these days about their narrative. Photo / 123RF
Everyone seems to be going on these days about their narrative. Photo / 123RF

Okay here goes. Another doily of insubstantial drivel written in my pyjamas. I feel weirdly scared writing this.

I've been bloody doing this for years but lately I seem to have become more aware of the mechanics of writing this sort of column, more aware of my icky solipsism, and what I ask of you, my reader. (Hey there!) Some weeks I need a disclaimer, asking your forgiveness for being so kind as to let me indulge myself at your expense. This week it should be in capitals.

Not only that, but now I'm about to inflict upon you an extremely annoying word. Think of all the trendy irritating things in life - smoothies served in jam jars, dental floss, recruitment consultants- and now add the N word to the list - yes that word "narrative". (Cringes.)

You hadn't noticed? Every second person is going on about what their narrative is, changing the narrative, seriously, fan me with a brick.

Except like most cliches, it's true. Everything just comes back to our story, the things we say to ourselves to explain our random lives. The stories we create in order to justify our actions and choices become in so many ways who we are.

I mention this because I am trying to change the story I tell myself, and you never know, maybe you are too. So here is my story. I seemed to have been primed by my genes, childhood, whatever, to be acutely sensitive to rejection.

And then when I got rejected I would lie down passively and whine. And then I would feel shame about that. Yet spookily, I seemed to perversely be attracted to situations where I could be certain that exact same thing would happen, over and over.

So of course, then I would feel shame about that as well: I was not only hurting but I brought it all on myself. Shame upon shame, in layers, like filo pastry.

I was a person who would always want what I can't have. ( Of course, the minute it's obtainable hot fudge sundaes become as ordinary as sardines. And yes, I must stop writing while I'm hungry.)

Anyway, I stuck to that story - I was a self-destructive freak - for about 40 years. I thought it was the only story there was. I thought it was the truth. But you are not necessarily who you think you are. In some ways we are strangers to ourselves.

The stories we create in order to justify our actions and choices become in so many ways who we are.

There is a saying: the "unthought known" -for the stuff we know but we don't know we know, or have no words for. There is more to you even if you don't realise it.

So you can find a new story if you're not doing well with the narrative you've created. You can storyline a new one.

Here is my new story. I was not in pain because I was bad. I was not crazy to have a terror of abandonment, and yet to keep seeking it out in a series of frustrating situations. That is because we attempt to achieve belated mastery by actively seeking something which in our childhood we passively endured. Every time we hope the result will come out differently.

This time! It actually makes sense. There is no need to berate yourself for doing this. But the only real way to transform things that have already happened is to learn from them, not to repeat them compulsively.

Also, guess what? You can have a self, independent of what other people think of you. (Who knew!) That means there is no need to try so hard all the time, no need to sparkle.

Chronic one-directional caretaking of others is a dysfunctional pattern we have learnt, and you can let it go. We did it as children because we sought to elicit behaviours we needed in order for us to feel safe.

But back then, we had to be looked after. But now you are an adult, you don't have to do please everyone and look after everyone else anymore. You can look after yourself. You don't have to be charming.

Have you noticed, all charming people have something to hide? Usually it is their total dependence on the appreciation of others. People pleasers are easily manipulated, even by people who are not what they seem. ( The wheel is spinning but the hamster's dead!)

Most importantly, letting go of the old narrative means letting go of the Golden Fantasy. The fantasy is a simple one: it is the baby-ish wish to have "all of one's needs met in a relationship hallowed by perfection."

Whenever we are compulsive, what we are really longing for is that. Learning to live with reality - I'm never going to have the Golden Fantasy, and nor are you - may be best of all.

When you give up the thing that is most precious and desired you will find the gleaming longed for, yearned for thing, whatever it is, is not what you were searching for after all.

That thing is in you. And, maybe, filo pastry. Must go and cook something.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 26 Oct 2016 19:55:08 Processing Time: 721ms