Certain parts of our personal histories seem very memorable to us. One of my most interesting “milestones” was at the time of my birth.
Here’s how I told the story of my birth for most of my life: “I was abandoned in an incubator as a baby while my family stayed at home with my brother.”
I am a twin, and my mother, who went into labor five weeks early in the winter, was not expecting twins. We were underweight, but I was more underweight than my brother, and, as a result, I spent two weeks in the hospital in an incubator while my brother went home with my parents soon after his birth.
Those are the facts. But at some point in my life, I started telling that story in a particular way, with a particular slant. Here is the gist of my slant: I was abandoned, left, forsaken. I lacked love and attention in those first two weeks, and that was clearly the root explanation for anything in my life that wasn’t working. I used this piece of history to explain low self-esteem and lack of courage in my life. If I’m really honest, I gathered a bunch of stories like this with all the same themes: me as powerless, others as not caring, and the world as a scary place.
You might be thinking, “But, Laurie, early bonding really IS important.” Or you might be thinking, “Laurie, you are so silly not to know how lucky you are. MY situation was way more terrible and hard to get past.” I think we all have a very special story to tell, and not all the things that happen in it are going to be our ideal. I think the challenges are sacred and necessary and very much our own. But here’s what’s curious: even if there is some validity that early bonding with a mother might be best or if your story is worse, MY particular focus in THAT story caused me years of heartache and justified years of me avoiding going for what I wanted in life.
I am asking you to look at your stories and themes and wonder if the same might apply to you.
If I look closely at this story, which we call a “haunting” at the Handel Group®, I can see that my telling of it is biased. Through the Handel Method®, I was asked to consider other possible interpretations for my birth story. I was asked to consider how it is I turned out so healthy, happy, and highly functioning. Might it have had anything to do with my early care and the love of my parents? Funny, I had never looked at THAT history. I also never looked at the miracle of modern technology that made it so I could LIVE! Without two weeks in the incubator, I likely would have died, and yet the way I had been telling the story, my mother should have ripped me from the incubator and kept me alive through the warmth of her body alone. Never mind that it was snowing, my parents were only expecting one child, and they still came and visited me, even with another newborn at home. Now that I have had a child (who, uncannily, also had a stint in an incubator), I have an even better perspective on just how much my parents actually loved me. I may still wish I had the “ideal birth experience,” but I am grateful beyond measure for the incubator that saved me and the parents who chose to help me live. This is now my focus.
Shifting this focus shifted my life. I got to stop blaming circumstances and my parents for what didn’t work in my life. I got to stop thinking something was wrong with me. At first, I wasn’t sure what I would do without that identity, but I quickly figured out that it left a lot of room for inventing who I wanted to be instead. I know I get to write my future, and it is connected to how I write my past. There are no clear villains in the stories I now tell, but there are a lot of lessons, and that’s how I keep it interesting. I am still capable of revising history, but now I am dedicated to revising it to be the most heroic and triumphant story I can possibly write.
Wanna try your hand at the same?
As an Executive and Senior Coach at Handel Group® Life Coaching, Laurie Gerber’s professional and personal mission is to better the world by teaching people to tell the truth and pursue their dreams. Laurie spreads her message of empowerment through live international events, one-on-one coaching, virtual coaching courses, as a writer for well-known blogs, and in TV and radio appearances.
If you want to learn how to write the best possible story of your life, register for one of our Design Your Life Weekends this fall.
Photo courtesy of Laurie Gerber