Context, Language and Re-framing Our Past

“Oh yeah?!?!? Well here I am batting a 1000 at failed relationships.” It was a throw-away comment which was supposed to be equal parts humorous and something else that I can’t remember anymore.

“Can I give you some coaching?” was her reply, to which I quickly said “sure”. Things had been going, blendery – as if the evening was being mixed on high and going all directions a once. The truth was, I knew that whatever was about to come-out of her mouth was going to change the course of my life. This was her first formal request to alter the path of history, the rest had been uninvited and simply just part of what two people do during a first date.

“Consider that you have had a series of successful relationships that taught you a lot and moved you towards now.”

My initial thought was to recoil and laugh, and point out the way me and various whats-her-names don’t see eye to eye anymore, but a few moments abated this into a dumb look on my face that got her to continue. “It’s about language Patrick, some of your language is powerful, it lifts and moves people, it’s exciting to hear because it shapes the future. Those words about failed relationships don’t belong with the rest of the things you say. Your words create feelings and those words are a dead stop in terms of possibilities.”

I wish I could have seen my face and body language at that moment because the entire evening had been a marvelous dialectic joust; to which I added nothing by replying “okay?”

“You can’t change your past, history has been written, but you can change the context very simply by selecting the words that empower and alter the narrative tone.”

Heather took the LandMark forum a month before I did, so we were already connected – this is one of the worlds new truths, there are those who took the forum and there is everyone else; there’s a third group containing those accepting enough of life to see it for the stories we tell but without a proper framework to place our history upon, it’s really difficult to bridge the gap between knowing your past is a story to believing it happened EXACTLY as we tell ourselves it did.

“Okay” was my next attempt to say something intelligible, then “so I’ll rephrase. I have had a series of amazing relationships with wonderful girls all of which taught me something that I needed to move me forward in my life.”

“Wow, that sounds enlightened, how does it make you feel?”

“Peaceful and calm, and strangely lighter.” This was true. It was a little over a month from completing the LandMark forum and while I was still riding the perspective bliss, reconnecting with my ex’s hadn’t re-framed the relationships completely. I wasn’t angry or anything, I had still been regarding them as experiences I should have ended sooner. But at this moment in time I was feeling settled. It didn’t matter which girl I looked back on, they had been amazing, our time had been well spend and I had learned a great deal from them and our time together.

What does this all mean?

Language is important, the stories we tell are impactful, what happened isn’t very important because it is subject to change. Yet for a very long time I had remained fixated on my memory of the events and believed that the stories I told about them were fairly accurate. Maybe they were I suppose, but the words I was using to tell the stories didn’t really do much to add a positive context to them. Sure, I became a compassionate person because I felt that being nice was the only way to make sure I fit in – my story of ridicule during my first day of class in Canada demonstrates this very well. But the context has changed. Becoming compassionate was a trait I developed to overcome the feeling that I didn’t belong, when I was 9 years old!

Now that I’m much older I get it. I’m able to use language to re-frame the past – to transport new resources back to that day – to give the younger me exactly what he needed to manage the situation more effectively. When Heather coached me to alter the story I was telling about sex, love and romance, she created a cascading tidal wave in my consciousness which flooded my unconscious mind.

EVERYTHING works out. Those things that occur that didn’t yield the result I was anticipating taught me something, those people who graced my life were my teachers / mentors for some lesson/s, life moves us forward and experiences shapes us, creating the opportunity for NOW. When we choose to use the language of empowerment, we are choosing to frame or re-frame these experiences in terms of us being the protagonist in our life. And that is a valuable lesson!