21 Apr What’s Your Story: My Life As A Soap Opera?
The other day I was watching some of my favorite TV programs. “The Good Wife” is a series about a group of self-involved, competitive, sarcastic, and usually arrogant lawyers playing out the Survivor drama with each other. Later, “True Detective” came on and I sat transfixed to the low-life drama that unfolded as two seasoned and cynical detectives battled their way through the search of a sexually sadistic serial killer. I loved both shows. They each had suspense, treachery, manipulation, contempt, compassion, and tension—all of which was played out by compelling characters. I have really become attached to such characters and their life dramas over the years.
During the day, in my real life, I also see a lot of drama. The only difference from my TV dramas is that now I am a participant, one of the characters. As a therapist and life coach, I talk with my clients about their life dramas. These dramas easily rival those of the fictional characters in terms of their tension, frustration, pain, anger, and longing. Just like my TV favorites, I become transfixed by the dramas and adventures that my clients express.
Our lives, like those of the television characters and my clients, are all stories with a beginning, middle and end, often changing locations or other players, but usually repeating the same basic storyline over and over again. Our personal stories are replete with dreams, frustrated desires, courage, jealousy, manipulation, love and pursuit, disappointment, humor, boredom, curiosity, and adventure. Our lives are the best show in town!
What most of us do not appreciate, or even know, is that we are more than the players; we also are the writers, producers and directors of our life stories. We are also the critics who judge how well our stories are going. Maybe I am biased, but I think most of our life stories are not getting great reviews. And yet, we keep the stories going day after day. And in our conversations with each other, we share our stories and listen and critique the life stories of our friends, colleagues and family, the other players in our stories. They are supporting characters in our stories and, like it or not, we are the supporting players in theirs.
In my last few posts, I have written about three main characters in our life stories: the Navigator, Survivor and the Victim. At one time or another, each of us is probably playing at least one of these characters. They are each great characters and the mixture and chemistry of all three together add great drama, comedy and adventure to our life stories. My job as a therapist and coach is to help my clients recognize the stories they are creating and playing out. It is up to them to decide whether to continue writing, directing and playing out their characters as they are, or to choose their roles more consciously, change their destinies, and more deeply appreciate the life stories they are creating. Most of us don’t realize how much control we have over our life stories; we end up becoming passive participants in our own lives, watching them unfold the same way we do while watching our favorite soaps! We become attached to ideas like “that’s just who I am,” and we accept the role of the “bad guy,” or the “drama queen,” or the “victim,” unaware that we can change the script at any time. Changing the attitudes and behavior of our own character can often change the ways in which others react to us, thereby transforming the whole script!
Some people are shocked by their stories and they quickly take on the challenge of rewriting their life scripts. However, most don’t. Instead, they argue, fight and lament taking on the rewrites and role adjustments. They have become so good at playing out their characters that it is hard to let go of these roles. Instead, they resist and blame others for being stuck in life, either in a relationship that is in crisis, or in any other troubling situation. Although the role of Victim or Survivor may be painful, they become comfortable and familiar; many try to somehow win the game by stubbornly sticking to these roles and seeing them out until the end of their life stories. I admire how hard and long they endure and I constantly strive to help my clients consciously choose what powerful story they are going to write. While I am personally biased towards the Navigator script, I appreciate that it is also just a role to play in the story, and each of us has the power to choose.
How about you? How is your story coming along? Happy with the plot? Are you enjoying the character you are playing? Ready for a change?
Moss Jackson can be reached at 610-642-4873, ext. 23 or at email@example.com. Check out his book “Navigating For Success” at navigatingforsuccess.com.