What Do Your Stories Tell?
“Some double the stake
Some play blind
I just have a high card
I read people and their minds”
Malini, who was not particularly close to her family revealed that she has always had an imaginary family she interacted with. It had 3 men from three different generations.
- The first was a father figure who pampered her.
- The second was a highly supportive guy in her age-group, successful in his profession, who was perhaps a friend, a classmate or a brother. There was clearly no romantic association with this guy and, his dedication to his partner was exemplary
- The third was a school-going child who was witty and brilliant, and looked up to her.
She shared her woes and achievements with these three guys, had long conversations, and also participated in the banter between them. She wanted to hone her writing skills, to weave these characters into a story. They were so alive in her imagination, that they felt real. And she easily befriended people, who resembled any of these three.
1. What does this story tell me about her?
- She pined for unconditional love.
- She needed companionship.
- She needed acceptance as an individual, devoid of any role play.
- She wanted the support of a successful and influential person, to further her own goals.
- She was clear that a romantic relationship could not fulfil her needs.
- She missed not having a baby.
- She wished to relive her childhood through a child.
- She was not keen on familial responsibilities.
- She was not very comfortable in the company of women.
- She was capable of giving, but wanted to be appreciated for that. It was not a selfless act.
When I shared my interpretations with her, she confessed that she was an ambitious person and had found family to be a restrictive factor. She did not enjoy playing the role of a stereotypical daughter, wife or daughter-in-law and, did not like demands being placed on her. She felt that it was all a thankless job and her support was taken for granted. She felt that romantic relationships were demanding, and she preferred an easy camaraderie. She had very few women friends, as she found them to be judgemental.
2. There are people we term as ‘congenital liars’, since they keep lying without having to gain anything from it. They are actually living out the life, which they had always wanted to. But they commit the error of verbalising it, maybe to enjoy the awed response from people around them. Try to change the topic (knowing the hollowness of it all) and they will repeat the same story with renewed emphasis, saying “Maybe, you did not get that ….. “.
3. Namita, who was brought up in the posh environs of a metropolitan city, moved to a small town after marrying her sweetheart. She kept repeating the stories of her younger days, her dreams and ambitions, and the encounters with celebrities residing in the neighbourhood, well, several hundred times. These stories got laced with more and more imaginary details, with each repeated narration. The children were encouraged to take up whatever she had left unfinished. Clearly, she had missed out on a life she wanted to lead, and was romanticising it.
4. An old man who has lived a difficult life, paints glorious pictures of his past while talking to his peers on an evening walk, or his grandchildren. It makes me wonder if he has blocked out the unpleasant facets of his life from memory, or if a faint awareness of reality still lingers on in moments of solitude.
I still flinch at the memory of some ‘faux pas’ statements made in the distant past to people I haven’t seen in years. I wish to meet those people again to clarify that I had not meant any harm. Do they still remember the incident or associate it with me in a negative manner? I don’t know. But I keep reliving those forgettable moments.
It is all a painstaking effort to live a life we had wished for. It is unfinished business.
‘Finish’ the story
Do we need to silence these inner voices, and the consequent enactment of scenes?
If we understand the deep rooted desires behind these stories, we might work at a plan to achieve them. Or accept that it is over, and there is no possibility of fulfilment. It will push us towards creating new stories – real and achievable.
As the Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing says,
“One must overlay this devastation by a new consciousness...”,
albeit a more active and action-oriented one.