We all have personal stories that we hold close, because in some way we feel they function as the storehouse of who we really are. These stories are our history, some from long ago and others perhaps from as recent as yesterday. While they do influence how we see ourselves, we tend to give them a solid and immutable status in our lives. I believe there is some comfort in that.
There is also pain. Some of these stories are not the ones we would have chosen had we been able to select those that match the idea of who we want to be. But we carry them with us all the same. Somewhere in our collective upbringing, we learned that because we can’t change history, we cannot change our stories. This isn’t necessarily true. It may not be easy but exists as a possibility for even those of us with the biggest, darkest stories.
Sometimes the story that appears most solid is not so much a personal one but how we live our day to day lives, how we make decisions about what’s good and bad, right and wrong. Consider the following two examples: The earth exists primarily as a resource for us to use. New and improved technological/economic development allows us to use and dispose of objects so that we can continue to demand more, newer, better products. These are just two of the shared collective stories that support both our social and economic structures. They and others have become part of our everyday reality.
I believe we can change these stories if we discover that they no longer serve us. But beyond recognizing a need to change, there must also be the sense that we do really have a choice. Otherwise the prospect of letting go a familiar way of being can be terrifying. This applies to personal and collective stories alike. And if one has the experience of letting go a personal story, realizing that it may not reflect the whole of who you are or is based on a wound that no longer has to define you, then it may be easier to accept that a collective story may also be exchanged for a different one.
What is needed for these larger societal stories is a tipping point, where the number of people who understand that change is possible come together. They don’t need to all come with the same idea of what is needed. Better if there are diverse thoughts about which way to go, better if there is dialogue, questioning and open listening. Better if what they share is a commitment to each other in moving forward, not remaining in the status quo. These are the same qualities needed for oneself in taking on a different personal story but broader and more inclusive. Above all, in both cases, it really is a matter of choice.