I was speaking with a close friend this afternoon regarding what we will call an "internal narrative".
In this, I am speaking specifically of the voice inside my head; or more specifically that voice trying to convince me of what is, or is not, true. My friend spoke of a continual playback he "knows" is false. A playback he wants to change but which he's made little progress.
After some conversation I challenged his conclusion. "What if the narrative in your head is not wrong", I asked; "what if it's simply incomplete?". He liked that! Because incomplete seems easier to embrace.
In this sense, incomplete can be described as not seeing the entire picture. With this definition, incomplete speaks of having "some" of the elements which create a whole concept. It seems my friend liked incomplete because it means he's not completely wrong. Trust me, there is real value in a mindset that recognizes I am not completely wrong. In fact, I have often said no one person can be 100% wrong 100% of the time.
Why does this matter?
Because, the way humans think; has been debated since humans became aware they possessed a higher potential, for thought; then other creatures sharing this planet. This greater potential does not make us better than other life forms. It simply creates a stewardship to think and to act correctly.
For example, my wife got her "first" dog about 15 years ago. By this time she was an adult. She did not have pets as a child. And more importantly, until she adopted Storm, as a small puppy, she had no intention of ever being a "dog mom". As years progressed, my wife began dreading the day Storm would no longer be a part of our life. So much so, there were days she would hold her little dog and cry thinking about the day Storm would die.
There are some who do not understand a relationship like this. My father is one. We had pets when I was growing up but my dad never became involved with these animals. At least at a level that would create a relationship like the one my wife has with Storm. Under most circumstances. My dad acted as if our family pets were more a burden than they were a joy. My wife was completely different. Although, at times, even she saw our little dog as a burden. Especially as she aged and her eyes and bladder began to fail. With this in mind, it's not surprising my wife said she'd give anything to have Storm back; even if it meant embracing her peeing on the carpet. For my wife, something that was once an irritant became a pain she would gladly embrace if it meant she could physically hold our dog again.
You may be asking what my wife's dog has to do with an internal narrative or even our higher potential as humans. Perhaps the answer will come with the following story.
When I was teenager, my favorite Uncle was visiting from California. At the time we had a dog that was mix of a Cocker Spaniel and a Poodle. Her name was Genny. I remember my parents got the dog for my older sister, when she was younger, as an emotional support. Originally, Genny was my sisters dog; but Genny did not go with my sister when she left the house. So, in reality, Genny really belonged to the rest of the family.
Genny loved chasing cars. Anytime she was outside, and a car drove past, she would dash after the offending vehicle with all her might. To her surprise, she actually caught a passing car on at least three separate occasions.
A simple truth states a vehicle has an inherent ability to win any battle against an angry dog. As a result, each time Genny battled a car she was left more broken than she she started. Which means, on good days, when she walked; she used one leg on the front and the opposite leg on the back. Most days this worked well; except the last time she was hit she broke her only good front leg. We did not know, at the time, her injuries were this severe. By the time we understood, her leg had healed with her paw facing backward. This didn't stop Genny! She still used those two legs to walk around; and continue her efforts to protect our house from passing cars.
When I was a teenager, my love for Genny was blocked by her injuries. Looking back I can clearly see I did not like her condition and I was confused at what should be done. What's interesting is the manner in which my empathy turned to disdain when confusion persisted.
Think about it this way. I was born with a heart that has an ability to love deeply. The problem with this blessing is what happens when my heart get hurts. Because of my deep ability to love it seems the scars associate with emotional pain run deeper and stronger than others. This outcome has plagued me most of my life. Meaning, from a young age I found myself avoiding people and things that hurt my heart. Genny's condition, which she caused by her ignorance, hurt my heart. I lacked the emotional intelligence to deal with this; so... I shut my heart to this pain.
This type of avoidant coping is as natural as eating and breathing; but this level of avoidance coping cannot be considered healthy or even beneficial.
I will explain...
Avoidant coping is a natural ability to put aside something for later. Much like a half sewn quilt, or craft project, sits on a table or shelf; our brains naturally put aside things that are too difficult to face. But mental avoidance has a deeper effect than simply procrastinating that thing I swear I'll do tomorrow. Avoidance coping is more like ignoring a pot on the stove or a leaking water pipe. Avoidance coping has the ability to damage, and even destroy, emotional health. Especially when things we are avoiding are very painful.
To illustrate this, we will return to Genny and her love of chasing cars. I mentioned before, her ignorance caused the damage to her body. My ignorance meant I struggled to cope with what happened to my dog. I felt, at the time, my negative emotion was her fault. After all, she was the dumb dog that wouldn't leave passing cars alone. Adding insult to injury, meant her broken leg, which healed improperly, wasn't enough to stop her behavior.
Nope, only having 1.5 good legs didn't stop Genny. She simply walked on her half leg despite her paw being frozen in a backward position. Because of this, she developed a large open wound. It obviously bothered her. Becasue when she laid on the couch, or a bed, she would lick the sore with a sad look on her face. You have to understand this dog. When we came home, she would wag her tail so violently her entire body shook. I know, people say dogs can't smile; but the way Genny contorted her face, and moved her body, you cannot convince me she was doing anything but smiling.
Genny was a very happy dog.
To watch her lay and lick her wounds, looking sad, was more than I could emotionally bare. What's interesting is the outcome. Instead of pity, or even increased empathy, I felt disdain for an animal I clearly loved. Thinking back on this now, I can see my negative outcome was created because Genny's condition could not be changed. She was a dog that loved chasing cars. And despite her injuries, and despite the pain and difficulty, she would tear after passing cars with only 1.5 working legs.
Looking back, it's clear Genny's injuries did not stop her from being who she was. She simply went on living despite her condition; and despite the fact walking on her damaged leg meant the open wound never healed. Looking back, I can see a real lesson in the ability of a dog to be who she always was. Added to this lesson is an understanding that Genny's efforts to be who she was actually increased her suffering.
When my uncle came into town he pulled me aside as said the time had come to take care of Genny. He instructed me to collect my dog so we could drive to a vet. His short explanation included an understanding of the cruelty of allowing Genny to suffer with a condition that dramatically limited her life. I remember the determination in his eyes. It was time to help Genny pass to a better place and I was going to help.
I remember feeling a combination of sadness and horror as we drove toward Genny's death. More importantly, I remember any animosity I had toward our family dog was replaced by a deep sadness. After all, this was the last time I would see her smiling face. This was the last time I would hold her. This is the last time she would look at me with perfect trust despite my flaws and shortcoming. At the time, my uncle asked me to do something very difficult. What's interesting is how this difficult task changed the way I felt. Prior to this, I avoided my dumb dog because I could not stand to see her suffer. After this, I felt only love for a dog who always loved me.
My relationship with Storm was different. Despite only having 9 years with my little baby, I was deeply saddened when the time came to help Storm pass to the other side. My wife was devastated because Storm taught her how to love. She was her best little buddy who was always there when she needed her. In reality, my wife's dog was a tremendous emotional support system; always there to make things better.
After Storm died my wife asked me if the pain will ever go away. I admit my response was probably not what she was expecting. I said the pain with decrease over time as she learns to cope without her little baby; but as long as she feels a loss the pain will remain. Because the only way to remove pain from life is to remove the joy created by that thing we loved. I explained that pain is created through a perception of loss. My wife feels pain because she cant hug her little baby. With time, and with a choice to switch focus, my wife can recall the joy Storm created; and the pain will go away.
In reality, I suggested my wife would benefit from an update to an internal narrative. An internal conversation struggling to cope with the loss of a cherished relationship.
Today, my buddy was speaking about an inside conversation he was trying to change. Today was not the first time we spoke of the broken record in his mind. But today's discussion went differently with a suggestion his narrative is not wrong it's simply incomplete.
The difficulty of an incomplete narrative comes from the associated pain. But ask yourself this... is my wife wrong for feeling pain? No; but she feels pain because she does not have a complete understanding of what happened to Storm after she died. So long as this confusion persists so will the pain she feels.
But pain does not have to be permanent.
When I was younger, the pain I saw in a dog I loved led to negative emotions for that dog. At the time, I felt like a bad person because I saw Genny as more of a burden than an emotional support. At the time, my internal narrative was incomplete because I lacked an understanding of how emotions work. My uncle changed my thinking by adding to the narrative I created to cope with difficult emotions.
Many years later I watched my favorite uncle slowly die because of a diseased liver. He worked hard for a living. He often took large doses of ibuprofen and Tylenol to cope with his physical pain. With time, this practice destroyed his liver. He was on a transplant list for a while but nothing came available. My uncle died just before my wife and I married--almost 9 years ago. At his funeral a microphone was made available for anyone who wanted to share a memory. My wife and I had only been together since February of that same year. Barry died in July. She only met my uncle once; and by that time he was so sick he was simply not himself. He was so sick. So much so his tremendous whit and energy seemed nearly lost. It was blessing Barry died when he did. At his funeral I spoke of my experience with my uncle who instructed me to collect my dog so we could do what was necessary. At the time, the event was difficult and painful. On the day of my uncle's funeral I felt nothing but gratitude for a man who taught me that hard things become easier with a mentor who knows.
Like my buddy's incomplete narrative, my understanding of this truth did not come until I had enough years and experience to appreciate what my uncle knew. The truth of this is simple. This life is often difficult and painful. So much so, most of us allow our natural defenses to put emotional pain aside hoping it will go away. Genny's leg never healed and with time it got so bad we were left with only two options. Allow the pain to continue or help her pass to a better place.
Please allow me to be very clear. I am not suggesting death is the answer for emotional pain. Nor am I suggesting nothing can be done to overcome very real emotional trauma. To be clear; any avoidance of emotional pain, especially avoidance related to suicide, simply creates a deeper layer of difficulty adding to an already hard situation. In fact, to be clear, any avoidance of emotional pain--especially through suicide--creates deep wounds that will not heal unless we intentionally choose something different. Suicide does not stop pain; it creates a deeper layer of pain.
In fact, the only way to overcome emotional pain is to attach a meaning to the difficulty. Please think about this for a moment...
My buddy has struggled with an internal narrative for years. In many ways I am sure he would describe his internal conversation as a source of pain. A pain associated with his perception of internal value. When I suggested he was not flawed; when I said his understanding was simply incomplete it seemed to resonate on a deeper level than before. A level which created an energy to begin looking differently at what he saw as a personality flaw. In a sense, he looked at his problem, his way off thinking like a cancer that needed to be removed in order to survive. Except emption cannot be cut out like a cancer. Emotion is as natural as breathing; and in reality, many complex emotions, and confusing cognitions, are best described as incomplete constructs. Which means an update in truth is all we need to resolve deep complexities of pain.
The truth of this is simple. Much of what goes on, inside our minds, are incomplete thoughts, ideas, or belief's.
Truth, it has been said, has the ability to set one free.
I have found this is empirically true. As I have walked a path of difficult emotions, with a direct intention to understand what helps and what hinders, I have found a deep confidence comes with a clear understanding of how things work.
Think about this for a moment...
The mechanics of a thing speaks of how something works. And perhaps more importantly how a thing does not work. In this sense, Pain can be a formidable teacher; but only if we allow this outcome.
"Except, pain is painful" you say; "why would I choose pain?". Because the strongest lessons I've ever learned have come from the deepest pain I have ever felt. Please hear me, when I say learning to embrace a path of truth has been one of the hardest things I've ever done. Trust me, when I say embracing this path of difficulty has made all the difference between success and failure. This concept is not well understood.
In fact, many will use the difficulty, and even pain, associated with truth as evidence something is not true. They contend something so difficult can only be evidence of how bad this thing is. Because after all, pain is always bad; right!?!
Remember my friend struggling with an internal narrative he's convinced is bad or evidence of a flawed nature? There are some who push incomplete narratives because it feels correct or because it helps them avoid the pain of learning. There are some who force incomplete narratives because they believe this justifies an incorrect action, or a lack of action. Some seem to spend all their energy trying to force the truth of their incomplete narrative on everyone else.
Remember, it has been said the truth will set you free. Truth will set you free if you free your mind sufficiently to receive truth. Truth does not simply exist without challenge or difficulty. And while we are on the subject, it seems imperative to enforce a fact of existence...
Truth does not change; what changes is our perception of truth.
Over the last 20 years, and certainly throughout my own life, I have found many simply disregard truth because it does not match the internal narrative they've created. An internal narrative created to avoid pain.
Right now, my dear wife is struggling to wrap her head around the loss of her best little buddy. On the day Storm was freed from this life my wife knew this choice was right. But in the days after the choice was made my sweet wife questioned why she was willing to embrace this path of pain.
In this sense, pain blinds truth; but pain is absolutely necessary to understand what is right and what is wrong. The path we must all walk includes an understanding of the flawed nature of avoiding pain because it hurts. In reality, pain is an indication of something missing; pain speaks of an incomplete narrative that needs an update; the type of understanding that can only come with time and with efforts to discover what is actually true.
Today the feelings of my heart include a charge to stand for truth and virtue. Both words--truth and virtue--invoke controversy at a level never seen before. But, both words are vital and necessary if we are to grow from the pain and difficulty this life tends to bring.
Wars have been fought, and billions have died, because two sides disagree on what is true; what is right; and what is virtuous.
Are you interested in a test that will help determine if you are on a path of truth?
Here it is...
Truth cannot be force; it can only be understood & embraced. Therefore, anyone willing to force their truth, anyone who demands their truth must be accepted without understanding, does not possess what has been called universal truth.
In this life you will find truths exist in three forms.
My truth, our truth, and universal truth. My truth is true only for me. Our truth is true for you and I; and all those who think like me and you. Universal truth is true for every human who has ever existed!
In ancient times, great thinkers like Socrates and Plato spent a lifetime trying to understand what is universally true. The problem with this path is simple. Many actively push, or force, an incomplete narrative as universally true. The reason they push these narratives is simple; they are trying to avoid the pain of truth.
Folks, the concept is simple!
Truth exists in a constant state. Universal truth speaks of that which is right for everyone; not just me or those who think like me. Remember, 3 truths exists. My truth, our truth, and a "real" truth we will call reality. My truth is good for me. Our truth is good for us. And universal truth is good for every human who ever existed. But how can we know what is universally true?
That is an excellent question. Let's answer it with a challenge or a call to action.
If you've read this far I promise you are prepared to accept this challenge. Because anyone who seeks to force their incomplete narrative would have stopped reading as soon as I suggested what they believe may not be true.
The challenge is this...
What does your truth say about your internal narrative? Are you willing to look? Are you willing to accept most concepts and beliefs are incomplete?
I am not asking that you accept I am right and you are wrong. I'm asking if you are willing to accept you and I may be right; but we may also be wrong. If we are willing to adjust our thinking; if I am willing to accept my understanding is not complete; then I am closer to truth. In fact, those who embrace a notion, they may be wrong, are the one who are free to seek a path that will eventually fill all the holes.
This is the purpose of this blog and this website. I am trying to fill in the holes for folks who are looking for a higher, even holier, path. In this I make specific reference to God who is the author of Universal Truth. But this is a conversation for a different day.
The conversation of today is a simple challenge to stand for a process which leads to a higher understanding of what is universally true. This path includes an understanding that pain can, and will, create understanding if we seek to learn the lesson pain is trying to teach. This path becomes easier when we accept my current understanding is incomplete. And with time I can gain a higher understanding of things many people refuse to accept are universally true.
The support of this Website requires real dollars. If you like what you read, please consider making a purchase of a book or what I think is really cool merch. This last belief, that the things for sale are really cool, is my truth. But, if you actually buy something this belief becomes our truth. See how this works? ☺️