What happened vs the story


Have you ever noticed that you tend to collapse an event that occurred in your past with the story that you tell yourself (and others) about that event? 

For example: When you are 13, your boyfriend breaks up with you (what happened) and you decide that it’s because you are overweight, unattractive and as result, no one will ever love you (the story).   So you begin to live your life as though the reason why men don’t approach you or the fact that you’ve never had a long-term relationship is because you are overweight, unattractive and not worthy of love.

While this may seem like a trivial example, that is honestly how it works.  Humans are meaning making machines - we attach meaning to every moment of our lives and when the meaning is negative, it can have a severe impact on our lives.

This past weekend, I participated in The Landmark Forum.  It was an incredible and eye-opening experience.  Essentially, what The Landmark Forum does (among other things), is it asks you to distinguish between two universes (the story + what happened) and realize that the meaning you attach to “what happened” doesn’t actually exist.  In fact, what happened didn’t mean anything

This was such a powerful concept for me especially when it came to my relationship with my brother.  While we have our moments, my brother and I are not exactly what you’d describe as close.  And it occurred to me that the reason for this stretched all the way back to an event when I was 6 years old (and he was 4).

[Coles Notes Version] My mom forced me to let him play with my Barbies one afternoon  even though I really didn’t want to - he had a history of destroying my belongings.  Minutes later, I found him in the bathroom cutting the hair off my newest Barbie because he couldn’t undo the braid I’d put in her hair.

He was not punished and the blame was placed on me for causing the event because I rarely played with him.  And in that moment, I decided that my brother was selfish, loathed him because there were never any consequences to his actions and resented him because his life was so easy.


And I have been carrying around this story for over 20 years!

He did what he did and he didn’t do what he didn’t do.  And that’s it.  By making the actions of a child mean something other than what it was, I have wasted over 20 years of my life having a superficial and inauthentic relationship with my brother.  I have been angry and resentful towards him.  I have punished him time and time again; and every time he did anything that coincided with my 6-year-old view of him, I would be validated in my feelings and I’d have further “proof” that I was right and he was wrong.  That I was good and he was bad.

But most of all, I robbed him of having an older sister.

When I came to that realization, it literally broke my heart.

When I shared this realization with my brother, he said he had no idea that I felt that way about him.  He admitted that he never understood why the two of us have never been close when all the other brothers and sisters we knew were.  And then he did something that surprised me…

He thanked me and he told me he was open to the possibility of us having an authentic and loving relationship with one another.

Ladies and gentlemen…I think I just got my Christmas gift early.


Now over to you: What do you think? What’s your story? And can you distinguish it from what ACTUALLY happened and make peace with your past? Share with me in the comments below!