Zia Hassan

What Do You Really Think

It takes some effort to figure out what we really think. Most of the time, we tell ourselves stories in order to make sense of our world. For instance, if I give a public talk or training (something I do almost daily), and the audience is lukewarm or distracted, I might start to tell myself a story. Like, the room is too warm. Or, it’s after lunch which explains the sleepiness. Whether or not the stories are true are a different thing altogether. Most of the time I can never verify.

I decided, one day, to track how many stories I told myself. Every time I started telling myself a story about a family I saw at the mall, or about the neighbors, or about a driver on the road… I noted it.

The experiment was eye-opening. Turns out I tell myself stories almost constantly. I tell myself a lot of stories about drivers on the road, and the reasons for their terrible driving (usually, the story is that they’re just an asshole, and have always been an asshole). I tell myself stories about the servers at restaurants who don’t get to my table quickly enough (they’re lazy and the restaurant is poorly managed). 

Not only do I tell myself these stories, but I internalize them. If I were to say these stories out loud, someone close to me could challenge their validity: “are you sure the server is lazy, or could it be that this restaurant is understaffed and they’re doing their best?”

It’s dangerous to believe the stories we tell ourselves. These are the stories that create our world view and affect our behavior. 

And most importantly, these stories are pure entertainment. They might make us feel better, if that’s our goal, but they’re theater of the mind.

So what do we actually think? What happens when we filter stories out of our beliefs? We’re left with nothing but what’s in front of us, happening right here and now. We’re left with a temporary frustration or joy. 

It’s kind of scary to relieve ourselves from the grasp of our stories. But liberating, too.