A client I work with is starting to date someone. According to my client, the woman he is seeing had a bad experience with an ex-boyfriend in the past, and she says that it’s difficult for her to open up to someone new. My client is eager to get to know her better, but the process is happening too slowly for him. As a result, he’s getting frustrated and not enjoying the relationship as much as he wants to.
There are many stories that my client can tell himself about this situation, but I’ll summarize three of them:
1) My client can blame the ex-boyfriend for doing what he did and making things more difficult.
2) He can think that she is slow to open up and should be able to see that he and her ex are different people.
3) He can realize that he’s the one who wants to move more quickly for whatever reason.
My first question for him was: “Which do you think is the true story?”
He paused and said: “Probably all of them.”
My second question was: “Which one would make it more likely for you to enjoy your relationship with her, which is what you ultimately want?
“The third one,” he said.
“Then choose that one.”, I said.
What is my point here?
Let’s start by clarifying that the answer to my first question (about which one was the true story) is “none of them” because, in the end, they are all stories. They’re all made up. They’re not reality. “True story” is an oxymoron; these “true stories” just represent three out of the infinite number of possibilities about how my client could see the situation. However, they are only representations, not reality.
So, given that no matter what the stories we tell ourselves it’s not going to be true, a better question is the second one I asked my client:
“Which one is more convenient for you, to your intentions, your goals, your well-being?”
Determine which story is more convenient for your interest. Believe it. And act accordingly.
Believe it because it doesn’t really matter which one you choose. No matter which one you choose, it’s not going to be true. So why not believe the one that is most convenient for us?
If we are going to feel something, depending on the stories we believe about the matter, why not choose the stories that make us feel better?
When my client choose the first story (blaming the ex-boyfriend), he felt frustrated.
When he chose the second one (she’s slow), he was frustrated and angry with the woman he’s dating. Obviously, this is not the best feeling to maintain when you want to start a relationship with someone.
When he chose the third story, he felt relieved. Changing the focus from the outside (the woman and her ex) to the inside made the frustration disappear. He was able to see more clearly how his thoughts about how fast or slow the relationship was going and about how open or closed she was were the reason for his feelings. And, I’m glad to say, from that point on, he was able to play with them and enjoy the relationship much more.
We tend to spend our energy trying to find out which story is the true one or who is right (it’s the same thing). However, in the end, neither of them is true. So, why bother?
It’s better to spend your energy deciding and living within the story that suits your interests, empowers you, and makes you feel the best.