If you’re lucky by the time you reach old age, you have stopped telling the myths about your life which started when you were a child.
Going through our youth we invariably hit times when the stress of life is too difficult to face up to directly. In those cases most of us probably repress the memory of it and substitute it with another story, usually not completely true.
That’s what I did.
For example, when I was in seventh grade I was cut from my little league team. I was hurt to the point of crying (I’m not a crier).
From that point on I repressed its memory. In my teens I told people I played little league baseball (actually I only played minor league baseball). I stuck with that story, until my early fifties.
I fessed up and told the truth. The truth was, I was cut two consecutive times. The same team that cut me the first time cut me the second time. Three, I lied about being cut and told stories saying I played in the majors, when I played in the minors.
Did I feel better after having come clean? I felt truer.
Why not just keep telling the story? After a while you start believing the false story, and it begins to distort your personality. If you tell enough of these stories about yourself, no anchor sets sufficiently firmly in your psyche in order to develop a personality that is authentic. You become confused about who you are. Eventually you realize that the only way out of this is to admit to the made up stories. Gradually, a sense of your real self emerges.
That’s what has happened to me. It hasn’t been an overnight transformation, but the more you do it the clearer a sense of yourself becomes.
My hunch is that a lot of people are like me. One, they repress bad experiences, and two they cover them over with stories that are more soothing.
It’s better to fess up, and stop telling stories. That way, I believe you get ahold of yourself. I not only felt truer, I felt happier.
For me, however, the story does not end here. The next episode becomes an irony (funny and unanticipated) and a paradox (a complete contradiction) vis a vis the above account.
Somewhere early in my life, I caught onto the habit of daydreaming. I think it started when I was bedridden for months with polio. I was seven. My parents would buy me sports magazines that I would read with the passion and intensity that I should have employed in my other school work.
I started pretending I was like these athletes. Because I was all alone, those athletes became my friends, in my mind. I dressed like they did, in my mind. I caught the ball like these athletes did, in my mind. I was an athlete, in my mind.
When I finally started walking again (albeit with a limp), I tried out for every sport open to me. I played little league baseball (minors), basketball (second and third string), football (one weight down), swimming (growing success), and water polo (varsity first string).
I had envisioned myself as an athlete, and finally ten years into it, I finally succeeded at a level that was personally satisfying to me. I met with good success in swimming and water polo. It put me in a peer group with varsity athletes that I had not anticipated would really ever happen. It attracted females who were attracted to athletes. You date girls who were only a fantasy in your mind. It was as much as my imagination could handle.
Years later, I developed a unique technique in planning where I had business executives act as though they had already achieved what they had imagined. For thirty years that has been my go to exercise that turned into my profession, and from which I have created a consulting firm that’s still going strong after three decades.
So my thinking is that while I was going through a critical time in my life, I repressed difficult experiences and covered them over with stories that did not fit the facts. On the other hand I developed a powerful ability to believe my daydreams.
Eventually, I started ripping out the repressed experiences and examining them, and admitting that what I covered them over with were not accurate or true. On the other hand I took my daydreams and turned them into personal realities, and then created a system of visualization people could use to accomplish their aspirations in life.
Moral of the story? I’m still figuring it out. Some of us are a disaster because we are made up of stories and myths. As we grow into adulthood, if we’re lucky, we purge the myths which then allow us to get to know ourselves. Concurrently, again if we care lucky, we stay loyal to the daydreams, which turn into the facts of what we actually accomplish.
I have these funny experiences now.
I look at my grandsons who are three to seven years old. They are blond, blue eyed, fun loving kids like I was. I think back to when I was doing the same things they are doing today. I look at their sun tanned legs and see my legs at that age – and then I see them no more. That summer when I was seven, the running and shouting and playing stopped. I was felled by a polio virus which put me in bed for months. Today, it is a grey memory with no sound. I can hardly believe it happened, I was once there, and I am now here. It’s like a dream that is hard to accept really happened. But it did.
Its residual effect threw me into the good and bad of it. I repressed horrible experiences to cover up the tragedy that ate up my young innocent life. I buried the pain of it deep within my psyche, and covered it over with constant tales of adequacy. However, at the same time I daydreamed to keep myself full of hope and relevancy in life.
I’m big on rooting out repression. I work hard to face my repressions and the stories that cover them over. My internal life has grown calm because of that.
I’m also big on letting children play. In letting them fantasize. As you watch them do this, it’s as clear as can be what they are becoming in the future. They can’t dream big enough as far as I’m concerned. I will do anything to keep them playing. They are practicing their victories in life.