Our ego is similar to a fictional story. It is our perception of ourselves in our reality. We write out the parts we feel do not matter to the overall story, and anything which doesn’t align with the narrative is skewed or ignored.
This article is about taking a step back and viewing our lives as a witness like you’re in editing mode.
What’s your backstory?
The ego is you. It’s everything that’s ever happened to you. It is how you fit into reality. Reality itself is a difficult word because reality is different for everyone because it is how we perceive things. For example, one person loves cars, while another sees them as a means to get from A to B.
Through experiences, we build our story. We create an identity. Are we the hero, the villain, or the victim? There are many labels we can apply to ourselves and to others. From an evolutionary perspective, labels and assumptions kept us alive. This is why we don’t go outside alone in the dead of night to check on that creepy sound (unless you’re unfortunate enough to have been written into a horror script). However, labels and assumptions can narrow your point of view. For example, you meet someone with the same first name as someone who bullied you at school. The name is enough to trigger those memories and feelings, but just because this person shares the same name doesn’t mean they will be anything like that person.
Exercise: Become the witness
One simple exercise is to sit quietly and observe your thoughts without judgement. What are the stories you have made to shape your reality? Perhaps these stories are holding you back? Maybe you believe you’ll never make a career out of writing. What has reinforced this belief? Do they come from experiences? Are they true? Or are they assumptions or words other people made you believe?
You can repeat this exercise, only this time observe the body. The head can try and make as many stories as it wants, but the goal here is to ignore them and get fully in touch with how you feel. Witness your emotional state and drop in and feel how it physically affects your body. This is also a great way to help describe emotions in your writing.
Changing the language
By separating and observing the stories we tell ourselves and the feeling they create in our body, we can begin to edit the language. When we quieten the mind, we allow ourselves to listen to our body. We may feel sensations or emotions, and because the mind is quiet, no longer making stories about why you are you, old memories may crop up. Perhaps your fear you will never make a career in writing stemmed from childhood because your parents stifled your creativity and encouraged you to take STEM subjects instead. It didn’t matter to them if you got A’s in English and Art if you were getting D’s in Science and Maths.
When we discover such limiting beliefs stemming from outside sources, like our caregivers, we have an opportunity to change the narrative. Our brain actively identifies things which align with our perception of reality. One good example is when you buy a new car, and then you see that same make in the same colour EVERYWHERE. Nothing in reality has changed, just your perception—and now you’re probably grumpy because your new car isn’t as unique as you thought it was. When we have limiting beliefs, our brain will go out of its way to look for reasons to enforce them. When we switch the narrative, we tell ourselves we can make a career from writing. This notifies the brain to look for signals to reinforce it. A submission to a writing magazine you would have normally scrolled right past hits your brain. It forces you to pause and take notice. You decide to submit your work.
What’s your arc?
Our thoughts can be a jumbled mess (mine probably look like one of my first drafts). But we have the power to edit them. We can choose which thoughts to nurture. We can choose how we act and interact with others. Unfortunately, we cannot control how others react. But we’re all travelling on different degrees of our own character arc.
Taking the time to become the witness of our own story and use our editing skills to weed out false, limiting beliefs and change the narrative sounds like an unconventional way to approach mental health, but I feel it relates to a lot of the stuff I’ve personally read in both science and spiritual approaches to the subject. What do you think? Do you edit your own story? Have you changed the narrative and changed your own character arc?