The story of my favourite thing Print E-mail
News - Final Word
Saturday, 18 July 2009 01:46
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“There lives nothing real in our past - regardless of how disappointing or painful it may have been - that can grab us and make us its captive, any more than a dark shadow has the power to keep us from walking into the sunlight.” Most people won’t agree with author Guy Finley about the past’s power to hold them captive. It’s as if the skeletons in their closets rattle even louder just by the mere thought of them.

So, what if I tell you that there’s an easy way to stop them rattling for ever? What if, merely by reversing the way you tell your life story, you can finally change habitual patterns of thought?

In her book, ‘Steering By Starlight’, Martha Beck says that instead of thinking about your life from beginning to end, you need to start thinking of it from end to beginning. Doesn’t make sense to you? Well, let’s do the exercise Martha sets her readers.

Write down three of the best things in your life. From this list, pick your favourite thing. Now try to remember a happy event that brought you this favourite thing. Say your favourite thing is your significant other. Try to remember how you met him. Did you work together? Were you introduced by friends? Write it down as the immediate cause of your favourite thing. Now, go back a step further in your life history. Look at the event you just described, and describe something else that happened to make that event possible. Say your favourite thing in life is your cat. Perhaps the immediate cause that led to you being the proud owner of your cat is that you found her as a tiny kitten in the gutter one night during a thunder storm. So, walking in the storm is the forerunner cause of the immediate cause.

You’re now supposed to write down the thing that led to the thing that led to your favourite thing. You’re still with me, aren’t you? Think of the reason you walked around in that storm.

Martha says that what you’ve done here is to reverse the story-telling order of your life, so that the mental momentum runs from future to past. Try following your chain of life events backward until you can think of one piece of “bad luck” that helped your favourite thing come into your life.

For example, Martha became an author partly because her son Adam was prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome. This tragic event gave her the material for a memoir that eventually became the bestseller, ‘Expecting Adam’.

Say you were born with dyslexia and couldn’t keep up at school. So, you compensated by constant disruptive behaviour, which was the ideal breeding ground for thinking on your feet and developing a wicked sense of humour. These proved to be just the right characteristics for hosting your own radio show.

Once you get started, you’ll see that you can list many “bad” incidents that became links in the chain leading to your favourite thing. Now you’re ready to tell the story of your favourite thing from a backwards perspective. And this, boys and girls, is a process of simple substitution. Instead of saying, “This bad thing happened once, but then later some good thing happened,” you turn it all around.

The way you tell the story now goes like this: “My destiny was to have my favourite thing. That’s why this bad thing happened, simply to make my favourite thing possible.”

For example, instead of writing, “I was born with dyslexia, so I flunked out of school and went into radio,” you would write: “Because I was destined to be in radio, I was born with dyslexia and hated school.”

The magic of Martha’s exercise is that it transforms your past. By understanding something backwards in time, you can turn a painful event into something that happened for you, not to you.



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