I've been reading up on the science behind story telling. Not 1001-nights-style story telling, but the kind when a person shares their innermost personal experiences in a dialogue. Coming from a background in the health sector, I am frequently surprised at the ease with which people can reveal confronting parts of their life history. Often they are filled with detailed recounts of emotion, and yet the subject remains paradoxically detached from the situation, as if it really is a story that has happened in another lifetime, or to another person.
In many ways, I can relate; I can speak about disruptions in my past (both positive and negative) so openly, and yet I have difficulty expressing my emotions in real time. Of late, I've been wondering what is it that creates this sensation of a virtual green-card, where one is so forthright and frank in revealing matters so personal.
The answer is simple- it helps one make meaning, and meaning serves to push one forward. Take for instance some adverse incident taking place, such as a debilitating accident. Rather than the subject allowing themselves to feel like the tragedy has engulfed them, by framing it as a turning point that made way for change (e.g. providing opportunity to realise a different passion), they are more able to come to terms with it, and move on with their life.
This is why many people who have been through focal episodes of stress or change feel a need to recount their story, and also why they end up presenting it in a very controlled, consistent way. Even though their story is very repeatable, it's likely that it is not an accurate representation of their 'life history' - the weight of time and importance of events are shifted around, and their interpretation of events is ultimately influenced by their state of mind at present time - the frameworks with which we see our world (e.g.spiritual, skeptical, or romantic) influence how we judge the impact of an incident.
In other words, people identify themes or lessons from an experience, and go back and lace together all the memories using this framework so that everything ties perfectly together.
Although this can help us make meaning, and is why many people live with 'no regrets' and see every decision or incident as a learning experience, this also causes us to lose some of the authenticity of what happened. The story we present is actually a mix of our history, and our state of mind in the present time. Think about the times you have ever told somebody about something like the impact of a holiday, or a break up.
So what is better? Living with a confronting truth, or a more encouraging (white) lie? Throwback a few years, and this is the dilemma explored in Shutter Island. The film shows that even esoteric self-aware people can willingly feed themselves an alternate reality, even if some inner part of them knows that it's just a more palatable delusion.
Right now, personally, I'm just dawdling in that strange time in-between; basking in the aura of change before I force myself to confront it. I don't know with what frames to look at things that have happened, even though i can recognise that in some way they have been pivotal. Do I tell my story and assimilate all the pieces in some way that is the most constructive? Or do I try to be impartial and look at things neutrally?
I feel like just staying in this limbo before it loses some of its real-ness; as Gambino says:
"You can't understand something totally and enjoy it at the same time, i think. But it's fun to not know all of it. Everybody wants some magic. Something they cant quite figure out."