The freedom to spin a story: Creating meaning out of whatever happens

Last week I talked about this idea of needing a reason for things.
That if something happens and it just appears to be random and meaningless, it’s like there’s a hole there.
There’s something missing, it seems, that we can then choose to fill.
We feel this hunger to fill the meaning gap, to give a meaning to something.
And even this could apply to all of life.
I mean, some people are OK with saying that there is no meaning to anything overall in life, and the desire to fill it with meaning is just kind of a human logical aberration, an irrational desire to make things more orderly than they really are.
Because pure random chaos is really hard to stomach.
And ultimately, I don’t know.
Of course I don’t have the ultimate answer.
It does seem clear that we do have this hunger, whether it is a real, natural hunger for meaning, something we really need, or just something that we feel because we want to make ourselves comfortable with meaning, but it isn’t actually warranted.
And that, of course, is a very open question.
But we have this hunger to give meaning to the things that happen to us.
And when something happens to us and we have no clear way to explain it, that’s when it opens up this whole world of narrative, of explanation, of storytelling, that we can generate our own meaning, based on whatever we want.
And my thought for today is just how amazingly flexible this is.
Our ability to tell a story, to take things that happen to us and turn it into a story, is so flexible.
It’s so open to interpretation and open to doing whatever we want with it.
And maybe this can be both a good and a bad thing.
Good because we can turn any story, any narrative, around to be something that’s more helpful for us.
And maybe bad because there is no end to it.
We can turn it into a story that’s not helpful to us, and there’s really nothing guiding us one way or the other.
We have this freedom to tell a story that seems to be so built in.
So classic example, you could take losing a job or losing a relationship.
Maybe even losing a loved one.
So some kind of an adverse event happens to us.
It’s very difficult.
Feel very bad.
And there isn’t necessarily any answer for why, if we don’t have any clear reason why this big life change happened.
So then those meaning gears kick in, and we try to come up with some kind of an explanation.
And here you can see where there’s so many different directions we can take it.
I mean, one, of course, we can try to really insist on the randomness.
It just happened.
And try to go with that.
Even that is a story.
Maybe it’s not the most satisfying story, randomness, but sometimes it does fit the best.
But it’s hard to really get satisfaction, like when there’s a really powerful event that happens, to just say “random event”: that’s kind of hard to take.
You can see how people can easily take this into a personal interpretation.
You can say “This happened to me because of something I did.
Because of something that’s wrong with me.” And so something bad happened to me, because of something wrong with me.
That makes sense.
“I did something wrong, therefore something bad happened to me.” Very logical story.
Or if these things keep happening, it could even go even darker, and say, “I am a bad person.
I’m just bad, and that’s why bad things happen to me.” And we start to get into this kind of cycle of interpretation, and you can just keep going with that.
Every bad thing that happens is because you’re a bad person, and it gets reinforced and built up into this image of just being bad.
And then we can go into the opposite direction.
Something bad happens, we see it as “This is an opportunity for me.
This happened so that I have a new opportunity to open a new chapter in my life, do something new, take things in a new direction.
Because I lost something, and now I’m forced to do something new.” And maybe this is the most useful way to interpret things.
Even if maybe it’s not even realistic.
Maybe it’s not in any way based on reality that we lost something, this bad thing happened, so that we would get a new chapter in a new direction.
Maybe it’s completely out of thin air, fabricated for our own comfort.
And yet, maybe it’s actually helpful to give us a sense of being able to face reality, face the future, be ready to take steps to move into the future and build for the future and move on from the loss.
So I’m curious to consider this idea and hear what you think about it.
Is it good to do this? Is it good to kind of spin this story that puts things in a positive light? Or is it better to not do that, not try to manufacture this kind of positive spin, and instead try to face some kind of hard reality of “it just happened”? It seems like there’s a case to be made for both directions.
Interpretation that strengthens us, or a hard stomach, a hard stomaching, a hard acceptance of hard truth.
Which is the way to go?

#needformeaning #personalstory #chooseyourownstory

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