Hero or Damsel?

The last time you were sick or injured, what was the story you told yourself? Were you the powerless damsel in distress, or were you willing to be the powerful hero?

Our resiliency has quite a bit to do with the story we tell.

Here’s one story you might have heard before:

“I am broken.  I am my symptoms and someone else needs to make me better.  I don’t want to deal with my body or my emotions.  It’s too uncomfortable to be so poorly put together.  There’s no way out of this and I can’t stand to look at it.”

Another story that might sound familiar: “Look at how awful this is!  Story of my life.  Stop trying to comfort me and just agree with me that my life is terrible!  Why me?”

Even writing these, I feel the sting.  I’ve told each one more times than I can count, and I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

The wonderful thing about stories, though, is that we get to rewrite them at will.  Instead of subsisting on maybe-someday-hopefully-but-probably-not being cured of our brokenness, we can focus instead on healing the places that hurt, on understanding ourselves more deeply.

A healing story could sound like this:

“I am so much more than the issues I’m concerned about right now.  Healing is always available to me.  My body is miraculous and wise.  I am perfect and whole – AND I can also make gentle shifts towards even greater health and happiness.  I am willing to do the work, to receive the guidance, and to feel better.”

Imagine how your body and mind might respond to this type of message instead.

To be honest, I didn’t always buy this mind-body stuff.  I was perfectly (un)happy with my stories just the way they were, thank you very much.  Over the past few years, though, I’ve been making those small, gentle shifts (and some enormous ones, too).   The rubber hit the road a few weeks ago when I was suddenly very sick.  As I catapulted myself into the bathroom, one phrase echoed in my mind, without my consciously choosing it:

I love my body unconditionally.  I love my body unconditionally.  I love my body unconditionally.

Even in the throes of dizziness and nausea, my story was rewriting itself into a message of kindness and acceptance.  I offered myself the support and power that I often looked to others to provide.

Hey, I still got sick.  I also recovered a lot more quickly than I thought was possible.  Just as important, the experience of being ill wasn’t terrifying or unjust or victimizing.  It was simply something I had to do for a little while.  I didn’t have to make it more than it was, or take it personally.

Play with your own stories.  Notice the words you choose when you talk about yourself, and consider choosing new ones.  And maybe you’ll see – if you don’t already – that you were always the heroine and dragon-tamer.

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