January 19

People Tell Themselves Stories and Then Pour Their Lives Into the Stories They Tell: or, The End of the Thoughts For…

Posted by William Berry | Filed under Blog | 6 Comments

The quote above, credited to “Anonymous” in the Interpersonal Communication Text I use to teach the course at Nova, is quite a profound thought. I’ve used it in the “Thoughts For…” section of my blog. I have decided to put that section to rest. This blog will discuss why and how it relates to the quote above, as well as what else is going on in my life leading to that decision.

I debated on whether to write this, and on how much to disclose. I am a therapist and adjunct professor, and as such, am supposed to keep a professional image. That, along with how writing might affect others, combining to compel self-preservation, curbed any desire to write on the topic in the recent past. Additionally, in practicing “Right Speech” I’m working at not talking so much. In Right Speech the goal is to refrain from speaking unnecessarily. With some of the reading I’ve been doing, it becomes increasingly difficult to determine what is and isn’t necessary. In fact, in reading Camus combined with recent events in my life, I’m beginning to feel there isn’t any necessary speech, unless it is to comfort another. I’m not at all sure this blog will accomplish that.

So that brings me to the explanation for feeling the need to use this quote again, and to write this blog. The more experience I gain in life and as a therapist, the more I believe we tell ourselves stories; that our “truth” is merely a product of our perceptions, which are colored by our experiences, which are filtered through our state of mind. By the time we accept it, it is no more the truth than any fictional story. Yet we buy into it wholeheartedly. Sometimes, we don’t even live the words we claim to be our truth.

Lately I have been dealing with one such story I’ve told myself, bought into, and wholeheartedly believed. My story has to do with love, and love lost (or killed, or a complete deluded idea to begin with…depending on my state of mind when you ask and your perception of my words). I won’t bore anyone with the details here, and previous posts will likely have made it pretty clear. But alas, it is only my story. As such, it is also unreliable. We all have our stories, and perhaps part of our misery is in believing them so fervently.

Camus, in his writing, puts forth that all we can really know is ourselves, all else is conjecture. He also discusses how we attempt to explain everything in theoretical terms. In my next article (hopefully posted to Psychology Today in less than two weeks) I will discuss how this applies to psychology, and how we might all just be better off realizing there is no clear cut meaning to things. This is what I am trying to grasp and apply.

At the same time, my job as a professor, my writing, and a speech I am giving at FIU in February on “Love, Sex, Relationships: Expectations and Reality,” require me to put forth theories, understanding, and answers to those seeking knowledge. You can see my quandary.

But in reality, how many are really seeking knowledge? I am becoming more and more convinced that the majority claiming to seek knowledge really won’t accept anything that contradicts their already entrenched beliefs. I am consistently confronted with people contradicting the knowledge they claim to be seeking. I’m not simply talking of any expertise I claim to have; I am talking about even the greatest minds on the subject. But hey, after all, even Buddha said, and I paraphrase, don’t accept anything from anyone, even him, that you don’t try and feel to be true. So, yet another paradoxical quandary: we shouldn’t accept knowledge that doesn’t ring true with us; yet we should continue to seek knowledge to understand ourselves; but that understanding of ourselves may be the exact thing standing in the way of increased knowledge. Geez.

So, I guess what I am saying is I have my story. Right now my story includes a feeble attempt at Right Speech. Yet at the same time I will make pronouncements regularly of knowledge I claim to have gathered, including all of the so called knowledge I am imparting above. This knowledge may or may not apply to you, and even if it does you likely will not apply it. And in truth, just like everyone else, I am probably just full of shit.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, January 19th, 2012 at 11:09 AM and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

6 Responses to “People Tell Themselves Stories and Then Pour Their Lives Into the Stories They Tell: or, The End of the Thoughts For…”

  1. Jim H on January 22nd, 2012 at 9:57 PM

    I can appreciate and relate to everything you wrote in this article, Bill. I think there is always hope to understand others, but I believe you are right that our story filters everything else. (I suppose our own “Truth” is the loudest). Narrative therapy follows this thought of helping someone identify their problem story to then help them to “author” a new preferred story. By the way, I don’t think you’re full of anything – keep writing.

  2. Diego Mursuli on January 27th, 2012 at 9:22 PM

    Yo cool stuff man. For some reason what you said reminded me of this quote. I think it parallels it pretty nicely.

    “Take stock of those around you and you will hear them talk in precise terms about themselves and their surroundings, which would seem to point to them having ideas on the matter. But start to analyze those ideas and you will find that they hardly reflect in any way the reality to which they appear to refer, and if you go deeper you will discover that there is not even an attempt to adjust the ideas to this reality. Quite the contrary: through these notions the individual is trying to cut off any personal vision of reality, of his own very life. For life is at the start a chaos in which one is lost. The individual suspects this, but he is frightened at finding himself face to face with this terrible reality, and tries to cover it with a certain fantasy, where everything is clear. It does not worry him that his ideas are not true, he uses them as trenches for the defense of his existence, as scarecrows to frighten away reality.”
    ? José Ortega y Gasset

  3. William Berry on January 27th, 2012 at 9:51 PM

    Wow, great stuff. I especially like the the last two sentences.
    Thanks for commenting and sharing.

  4. William Berry on January 27th, 2012 at 9:54 PM

    Yes, Post Modern therapists keep making me aware of their movement in psychology regularly, and I am aware this is very much a similar theme. But to what extent is the therapist also in the story? And again, it is their story. My next Psychology Today article discusses this a little bit (should be up Sunday).
    Thanks Jim.

  5. Love and Relationships Presentation - Blog - William Berry, MS, CAP on March 11th, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    [...] Berry, W.; People Tell Themselves Stories and then Pour Their Lives Into The Stories They Tell; [...]

  6. Why Don’t I Just Shut Up, The Extended Version - Blog - William Berry, MS, CAP on November 22nd, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    [...] speech, and ceased it. When I made that decision I explained some of what I am reiterating here (to read that post click here). I even wondered if any speech is really necessary. In the PT article I make note of speech that [...]

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