The great Maya Angelou wrote in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” I totally agree with her.  And she wasn’t referring to the kinds of stories about our past that seek to perpetuate our victim status!

When we frame our personal stories as unresolved conflicts we are conditioning ourselves to view our lives in a certain way.  And, outside of professional therapy, we often enjoy telling others of our pasts in order to garner sympathy.

We all have stories about our pasts, our dreams, and our disappointments. In them blaming self or others often runs amok. After all, blaming reinforces our status as victims, as individuals who have been unfairly treated. We come to enjoy the exaggeration and justifications. How we tell our stories indicates what feelings dominate and influence us, such as a sense of scarcity, procrastination, fear, or anger.

Our stories can also harm us physically.  The effect in our bodies is dramatic when we are telling certain stories. It is as if the incident were happening in real time, as far as our nervous and hormonal systems are concerned.

Victim-stories relive the stress and trauma.  They trigger unhealthy emotions: blaming, resentment, or revenge. They incite our reptilian brain, the amygdala.  Our blood shifts to this more primitive part of the brain, depriving the part of the brain where rational thought originates. Our breathing becomes shallow, our blood pressure rises, and our bodies call for a cocktail of hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, and epinephrine that prepare us for a fight or flight response. When we are in fight, flight or freeze mode we do not have the ability to think rationally or proactively.

Telling our stories of victimhood is also a way we mask our narcissism and put forth an idealized self-image. We get to be the angry victim upset that we cannot live in a perfect world.

Our stories can also subvert love, closing us off from self-care. They can tell others, “Here’s why you should not like me.” All of this stress shortens our lives.  Our stories can kill us.  (see my Five Steps to Identifying and Reframing Your Stories in my book, Life Interrupted).

So what are you doing with your stories? How might you reframe the past to live more joyously and freely in the present? Are you looking forward to attracting the kind of friends you deserve by first being your own best friend in your stories?

© 2017 Michael Parise

Portions excerpted from Michael’s book: Life Interrupted, Taking Charge After Everything Has Changed
Since 1979 Michael has worked with individuals and groups to take full advantage interruptions and changes to balance responsibilities, simplify their lives, and find greater productivity and peace.  Want Michael to speak for your next event?  Or hire him as your personal executive Life Coach to improve your relationships at home and at work? Call 813-444-9641 or email:

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