New Perspectives On Old Predicaments

Below is the audio version of this blog post:

Repeating predicaments or problems are often old compromise solutions in disguise.  The stories we repeat about ourselves were created when we were young. Most of us are not reliable eyewitnesses, our personal narratives are often biased.

Why? Because we selectively remember information. Finding the missing information, our omissions, requires exploration. The familiar predicaments we find ourselves in are often directly related to the familiar stories we tell about ourselves.

That is why the actual predicament is often hiding in plain sight. Curiosity about the stories we tell can help locate our omissions and investigate them.  Omissions are not total absences of information but forgotten or unwanted knowledge. Dreams, fantasies, anxieties and excitement are often swarming around these omissions.

Ongoing personal work can result in discovering what’s really going on, but often a guide is needed to accurately interpret what we discover. The following questions can help explore, challenge and even change our old stories. The act of imagining different interpretations of “what we are sure we know” can release us from repeating old predicaments.

Let’s get started with the questions ...

  1. What are your recurring predicaments? (time, money, feeling like a fraud, anxiety/excitement, trust, disorganization - this can be a long list. Write your top three struggles down.
  2. Now, think about a few significant stories you retell about your life ones that define who you are and then pick just one of these stories. Also choose just one predicament from your list - pick one that keeps repeating and causing you trouble.
  3. What are some connections between the story and the struggle you choose? Sometimes these connections are about ongoing struggles with receiving praise or avoiding punishment; being proud or ashamed; being who you are or disappointing others; focusing on the greater good or taking care of yourself; being action oriented or procrastinating...
  4. Ask yourself how these connections keep you stuck. Once you identify specific connections, reimagine your story and tell it opposite or contrary to what you “know” happened.
  5. In what way could this new version of your old story alter you familiar predicament? Sometimes this new knowledge makes a solution obvious but sometimes it is very subtle and requires more reflection.

The most important step is using this new knowledge. So keep practicing matching your stories to your predicaments until you find one with obvious connections. Use these insights to help you to take action and disrupt old patterns.  

The following four affirmations will help you remember how to gain a new perspective:

I can recognize a story associated with my predicament
I can reimagine that story
I can act as if the new story is the true story
I can notice what changes when I use the new story as my guide.

My hope is that you discover many new perspectives. A quote attributed to William Blake comes to mind, “There are things known and there are things unknown, in between are the doors of perception.”

If you have any questions or just want to talk about this blog, you can contact me at patwardconsulting@gmail.com or through my website, and schedule a free 20 minute conversation.