Listening to the podcast episode featuring Suzanne Iasenza and Shane Parrish there was one section where Suzanne brings out the concept of narratives by making this statement “When two people have sex, it is not just the two of them, it is usually group sex”. How is that group sex you may ask? We are what we are based on the sub-conscious stories (narratives) which we have been told by our parents and ancestors. So how we react to a situation (in this case sex) is based on those narratives which we have told ourselves and also what has been passed down from our previous generations. So in any act sometimes there are more than the people who are present there and one may not be aware of it. This was a gist of what the author presented. This got me curious about this topic of narratives and I decided to explore this further.
Narratives – What you tell yourself to make decisions
Narratives are stories that we tell ourselves to describe ourselves and how we handle situations that we face. An illustrative way to show that narratives exist is to consider the situation of how two people respond to a similar situation that they may have faced. Imagine facing a boss who is very supportive of the employees but is a workaholic and is always behind his employees to get things done. He is someone focussed on work 24 hours a day. This can be viewed as a good thing by one of his employees as he too strongly believes in work ethic and sees the boss as a role model. The same boss can be viewed as a villain by another employee who does not believe in working all the time and feels that working with the same boss is impacting their work-life balance. The way each of the employees react is different and this is based on the narratives which each employee has about themselves.
These narratives can be something that has been formed sub-consciously or could have been passed down from the family. As an example, I know someone whose narrative is that she is a victim of circumstances, so she would always find situations to see herself as a victim. Given any challenge, she will always talk about how everyone is out there to take advantage of or exploit her. This narrative has been passed to her from her family – Grandmother to mother to her and is so strong that it governs almost every aspect of her life
You are a story that you tell yourself.- Naval Ravikant
Knowing your own Narratives
Everyone has a narrative so it may make sense to know what are the narratives which we live with. If the narratives which we tell ourselves are negative they may be hurting us big time and then we may not be even aware of it. This is why it is effective to develop an approach where we are able to watch ourselves tell stories to ourselves. Though there are many ways of knowing your own narrative the most effective one which I have found is to maintain a journal of your thoughts. In this journal document how you react to any given situation (challenges) and then write down what are the thoughts that are going in your mind during the decision making process. Over time you will see some patterns emerge and it is these patterns which are narratives which you live by. Once you have discovered those narratives you can analyze the impact that they have on you. If the narratives are helping you see the bigger picture and allowing you to develop hope then they are good narratives. If they are toxic and have a negative impact on you and your family members then you need to find out ways in which you can avoid or change the narratives. From my personal experience, I have seen that once we are aware of the narratives then we will mostly know what to do. Thus the awareness and acceptance is the starting point.
I dont have a solution which works for everyone but would love to know what you think about this.