Living Between the Lines

I recently heard about an idea which might have an interesting application to myself. The idea is that, as we grow up, the stories we hear build neural pathways which enable us to frame our own experiences appropriately. By taking in a wide variety of stories, with different themes, structures, and endings, we also build a wide variety of neural pathways enabling us to frame each experience we have in the context of a story template which is appropriate.

However, if you don’t take in a variety of stories and instead only hear stories with unhappy endings for example, then as you grow up you will be less likely to be able to apply any other kind of story template to your own experiences and so would be likely to visualise how it’s all going to go wrong, even in the midst of good news and pleasant days.

But this process isn’t just limited to childhood; it continues as you get older. In fact, when fully grown, it can result in you also being unable to tell different kinds of story. Apparently, the majority of people have a common thread that will run through all stories they tell which says something about their psychological make up.

So if, for example, a boy grows up fixated on stories of right and wrong, in which the good guy almost always triumphs, he will most likely try to frame his own experiences according to that story template. When the real world bites back and either the good guy doesn’t win or anything unfair or unjust happens to the boy, it will also be more likely to affect him than it would other people because he doesn’t know how else to frame the experience and it doesn’t fit the only frame he’s got.

In later life, this person might begin to feel a deep seated resentment of how the world is run as well as of those who have the power to change it but choose not to. He would start to feel persecuted by this unjust system that doesn’t run as it should and, when constructing his own stories, he might start to exhibit the common thread of helplessness. Perhaps the one thing the main characters of each story share is that none of them have any control over their situation or power against the unfair world around them.

And all of that might come from a fixation on tales of Narnia, King Arthur, The Hobbit, and Robin Hood. Tales of good versus evil where good always wins in the end. And all of that might explain why I write the stories I do.

But realisation that you do something is just the first step. How do you overcome it?

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5 thoughts on “Living Between the Lines

  1. Do “the work” by Byron Katie for the same number of years it has taken you to get to your miserable angry state.

    • Thanks for that recommendation, Maggers. I took a look at it. I totally see what a lot of people could get from that, but I think I have a natural and instinctive aversion to self help books or systems. Not because I don’t want to help myself, but because I think that everyone’s individual idiosyncrasies are so unique that any method of self help which is put forward as the solution to life’s problems is bound to be great for some people and utterly useless to a whole lot more. Kind of like astrology or anything that comes out of the mouth of David Icke.

      That isn’t to say that I’m right of course, it is just my instinctive reaction to such things which prevents me engaging with them on any really meaningful level. I do really appreciate you suggesting it though and I will certainly return to it it I ever reach a stage where I feel enlightened enough to benefit from such things. Thank you.

  2. Castlefield Gallery, the Koestler Trust and Bob and Roberta Smith have come together in a unique collaboration: Snail Porridge, an exhibition of artwork, music and writing from prisons, secure hospitals, secure children’s homes and by people on probation in the North West.

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