A recurring theme with me this week is how we, as individuals, recall incidents or events in our life. This theme has jumped out at me when working with clients, whilst attending a recent parish council meeting, when talking to colleagues and following yesterdays inspirational breaking news about the Chile miners being brought back up to the surface - through to the final miner being brought up in the early hours of this morning.
On a personal level - something happens in our lives - perhaps a close family member dies unexpectedly or there is a divorce in the family and we get through it one way or another - as do others who share our lives. But 24 hours later, a week later, a year later if you ask the individuals who shared that experience what happened each person would have a different story to tell. A child would perhaps tell you they felt frightened and didn’t know what was happening – and perhaps thought they had done something wrong.
In the example of a recent parish council meeting I attended – we considered implementing a traffic calming solution on the stretch of A259 between Sandgate and Hythe. One group of councillors emotionally argued the case to implement a solution saying that residents wanted this. Another group of councillors argued, using statistical evidence and the results of a resident straw poll that the solution would actually increase risk of accident. Both groups stood their corner and truly believed they were right.
And this morning I returned to the video I had been watching most of yesterday to see the final Chile minor returned to the surface and the resultant celebrations across the world at this triumph – and could not fail to be touched by the emotion of the situation. And I wondered how the Chile minors would remember their 70 day ordeal in a deep black hole under the ground.
So where is the link?...for me the commonality is how we, as individuals, turn these life events into ‘our story’ and as time passes the memory of these incidents becomes an ‘abridged’ version of the actual event – perhaps just including the highlights and lowlights and leaving out much of the seemingly minor detail.
For a child remembering a divorce they may only remember their mother or father crying or upset, the raised voices at night, going to school not knowing what was happening. For the councillors they may only remember the feeling of frustration at not being able to make the points which they felt so strongly about, for the Chile minors ….. well we can only guess at what memories they will be left with – but along with the fear and horror perhaps they may also recall the camaraderie as they organised themselves for survival?
Where is all this going…for me the learning is to always remember that whatever you are going through is true for you…but that others who are going through the same experience will have their own ‘truth’. If children are part of the experience it is so important to tell them what is happening (but not allocate blame), to give them time to ask questions and to say what they are feeling. For the councillors – we would do well to remember that we are all on the same side – we all want the best for our residents and it should not be a 'I win/you lose' situation. If the right solution is agreed then we all win. If you are ‘at war’ with your life partner – remember that although it may feel as if you are in the right (aren’t we always in the right?) the other person may feel they are in the right too - and somewhere between is the truth.
There are always 3 parts to any story ‘mine, yours and the truth’.
Another little thought on this....hmmmm.....it is the story we tell ourselves that is important to us and we hold it so close that it obscures what is really going on. If we continually tell the story about our lives as if we are the 'victim' in the story then we will continue to live our lives with lots of stories about how we are 'wronged - in fact we will seek out evidence to support that. But where is the learning in that?
If we try to step into the shoes of the other party...we can begin to understand a little more about why that person is being so 'awkward'...but if we then step into the third position (the position of an outsider watching) ...then perhaps we can see the truth. Sometimes, if the situation is painful we have to wait till the pain subside before we can do this.