Is that how you want to live your life?
Follow your bliss – Joseph Campbell
Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in “The Danger of the Single Story”, highlights how we are all shaped by the dominant stories in our society.
The dominant story is the most common one, the one we most buy into. The common story becomes the ‘neutral’. The dominant story provides us with a sense of ‘that is just how it is’ or it is so implicit that we don’t questions it at all.
There are dominant stories in all realms of life. In relation to gender, age, leadership, how to live, what a good woman is and alcohol, etc. The problem with a very dominant story is that we all sit in relation to it. We compare, comply or rebel in relation to it. When we perceive that we fall short or outside the story we consider ourselves ‘not good enough’.
One of the very dominant stories in Australia is around our drinking culture.
The dominant story of drinking is that it is ‘normal’, it is the ‘neutral’ and not drinking is what is different. The ‘fun’ girls are the ones who drink, the boring ones are the ones who don’t. A real man is the one who can really hold his drink. To be included, a man almost has to drink and the questions are always asked of the ones who don’t drink rather than the drinkers being asked why they do drink. Drinking is the ‘neutral’, the normal. This means truly making your own choices can be challenging. There is nothing wrong with enjoying wine, there is nothing wrong with celebrating with champagne, just be curious about the story about this.
Dominant stories also lead to stereotypes and therefor exclusion of those who are not ‘right’ as they do not fit the dominant story. We might even feel uncomfortable around them as our unconscious dominant story is being challenged by their ‘alternative’ behaviour.
Living without challenging the dominant stories is living on automatic, as the dominant stories are just stories that have been told many times by the ‘vocal or heard’ group. Once internalised they tether us, they prevent us living our own lives, making our own choices, thinking independently.
One of the most concerning stories in the West at the moment is the relentless go-go-go. That being full of energy and getting a lot done is the way, always maximising the most out of everything and being productive is the way to live. I just saw some tips on social media that said: “First thing successful people do”, “How to think faster” and “How to Work faster”.
Is that how you want to live your life? To meet this internalised criteria we live in the Drive State, which as we have explored before, is hard on relationships and not sustainable in the long term. From the perspective of the Drive State, we don’t appreciate fun, just ‘being’ or a little silliness in our life. We don’t appreciate wasting time nor relationships unless we see them as being useful for us. There is a cost to this.
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” Krishnamurti
When we are only being responsible “doers” then there is another part of us that is not getting an airing. That part is the playful, fun, silly and creative part and the spiritual part of us. In my experience when this part is not experienced in a healthy way it tends to sneak out covertly, and this is when we for instance need alcohol, as we yearn to abdicate responsibility, feel free and have the ‘fun’ experience. When we drink we feel free, we are in the zone, we abdicate responsibility for a few hours and it feels so good. Interestingly, the main addictive part of gambling is not the hope of winning, it is the feeling of being in the ‘zone’, of being free not burdened by responsibility and to-do-lists.
The combination of these two dominant stories of ‘go-go-go’ and alcohol is problematic, as neither story is challenged enough. Instead we think that there is something wrong with me because I can’t keep up, or that it is just me needing alcohol to ‘rebalance’ my high demand life.
Counter stories are how we can easier find ourselves, find our own voice, our own truth. When we are represented in a story we often find a kind of reassurance, “I am not alone, I am ok, I have a tribe.” By sharing honestly we might find the comfort of a counter story.
So here is another counter story…. It is your life, there is no one way to live it, there is no right or wrong way. Mental health is when we experience compassion and kindness. This is what research is telling us. So, with kind curiosity what does that say about the way you live, how might that guide you?
Be really honest about what you feel good about, what makes your heart sing, and what makes it weep or disconnect. So often we don’t really check in with ourselves around what we enjoy and what we don’t. Getting real pierces, the dominant story and that is liberating for all.
“How can we be free to look and learn when our minds from the moment we are born to the moment we die are shaped by a particular culture in the narrow patterns of ‘me’? For centuries we have been conditioned and therefor our responses are conditioned. Are you aware that you are conditioned?” Krishnamurti