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Blog #2: Starting At The Story: Change Your Addiction One Story At A Time

Blog #2: Starting at the Story: Change Your Addiction One Story at a Time

Sticks and Stones Will Break My Bones, but Words Will Never Hurt Me…Is That Really True?

When we were children many of us heard or said, “Stick and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” The intent of this phrase was to empower us over someone who was verbally attacking us – and most of us yelled it with the sweet taste of revenge on our tongues. Yet as I sit here working my stories about circumstances that send me into self-harming activities I realize that this phrase isn’t really accurate. Words hurt – they hurt like hell and work to keep us trapped in old ideas of ourselves and in harmful patterns, situations, and behaviors.

I started really thinking about this as I was working on consciously reframing my stories about myself, my relationships, my health goals, and deciding what it was I wanted to leave in the world. Actually let me step back and say that, before I started looking at my own words, two things popped onto my radar within a two week time period that led me to incorporate thinking about words into the work I was doing with my stories.

First, I was in the produce section of the grocery store telling my friend about my on-going efforts to eat better when she screamed (really it made several heads turn), “Listen to yourself! Use your words Susan, use your words…” In a humorous way she used a phrase I use with my son when he isn’t being conscious of how he is saying something hurtful or mean to another person or about himself. She was appalled by the negative words I was using to explain my past eating struggles and my body; she loves me and was horrified that I wasn’t being loving to myself.

Second, a friend in recovery who has listened to many of my moments of reflection suggested that I re-read Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom. She told me to focus on “The First Agreement: Be Impeccable with Your Words.” Again, a loving voice was telling me that I wasn’t using my words in a wise and healing manner.

So, back to thinking about my personal stories being reframed and the role that words play for myself and for anyone trying to become the creator of their own stories and image. In the model I shared in my first blog there is the step where you have to retell the story you tell to yourself if you want to stop responding with harmful behaviors. When you are at this step, pay close attention to the words you are using – even in your rewrite. There are words that have negative energy; words that, once you put them out there, have so much power to harm it is necessary to know you send them out or you will be the one most harmed by them.

Let me give an example of how I was thinking I was rewriting a story to a positive outcome, but was in fact setting up a story that, because of negative word energy, could easily get me to my same harmful reaction.

Here is the story I want to rewrite, because it is one that keeps me in a dark place with my own beauty and relationship with food, and harms my social interactions.

SEE: My body appears to have a muffin top above my jean waistline.

TELL: I am so fat! UGH!

FEEL: I am totally undisciplined, I am so not attractive, I can’t possibly be a responsible person if I can’t maintain a thinner, ideal appearance. I suck.

DO: Run to the kitchen and binge on comfort food. (Hey not logical, but that is what I did to ease these feelings.)

Here was my first rewrite:

SEE: My body appears to have a muffin top above my jean waistline.

TELL: Well, I don’t have a muffin top when I’m naked so it is just that I am a little heavy for these jeans.

WAIT! STOP! So, that tell looks ok, right? It is different than the original story and it is a less emotional statement than the original one, so what is the issue? The issue is that I am in a very subtle way allowing my mind to tell me that I am “a little heavy,” which is really a nice way to stay “not thin enough.” This can take me right back into my harmful reaction, because it is putting lipstick on a pig so to speak – it is the same story.

Let’s do this a different way and shift this wording from a fault or defect in me to a totally neutral object that can’t be harmed by the words.

SEE: My body appears to have a muffin top above my jean waistline.

TELL: Well, these jeans just aren’t working for me today.

FEEL: Neutral, it is just about the jeans that day – I own more.

DO: Put on different jeans that I know are more comfortable and admire my butt in the mirror.

Subtle yet important to your story rewrites is the act of choosing positive and supportive words that don’t attack you or another person. To quote Don Miguel Ruiz, “Whenever we hear an opinion and believe it, we make an agreement, and it becomes part of our belief system.” (The Four Agreements, Agreement 1, pg. 34)

You are the one owning and managing your stories and the opinions you have of yourself and others. Make sure you create ones that support you and others in a loving and nurturing manner. Because, while broken bones generally mend with minor medical intervention, I am hopeful that wounded hearts, souls, and minds can be healed from words with conscious choices.


Susan’s Bio

Susan Aplin Pogue began her career in personal development after many years focused on self-development and improvement work. Her experiences led her to discover tools and practices that she was inspired to share with other people through her blog work. Additionally, she has created and facilitated leadership trainings for executive teams in corporate and small businesses. Susan is a public speaker, and has addressed audiences on topics ranging from leadership to time management.  Her mission is to share practical and powerful self-management techniques to those in recovery from any aspect of their life that has begun to negatively impact their well-being and quality of life. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from the University of Colorado, Boulder, a Certification in Emergenetics ® , and a Certification in DDI Management Skills ®. Her work draws upon her background in corporate training and human resource departments, as well as her life experiences. Susan’s blog work is published by The Neurosculpting ® Institute. Transform, Inspire, Thrive.

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