The Story is Not Important

Trust me when I tell you, the story is not important. Figuring it out, understanding it, or worrying about it won’t make it the pain or the story go away. It won’t make you heal from it. Understanding it doesn’t speed anything along. To illustrate this point, allow me to share a famous story as told by Thich Nhat Hanh.

The Buddha always told his disciples not to waste their time and energy in metaphysical speculation. Whenever he was asked a metaphysical question, he remained silent. Instead, he directed his disciples toward practical efforts. Questioned one day about the problem of the infinity of the world, the Buddha said, “Whether the world is finite or infinite, limited or unlimited, the problem of your liberation remains the same.”

Another time he said, “Suppose a man is struck by a poisoned arrow and the doctor wishes to take out the arrow immediately. Suppose the man does not want the arrow removed until he knows who shot it, his age, his parents, and why he shot it. What would happen? If he were to wait until all these questions have been answered, the man might die first.” Life is so short. It must not be spent in endless metaphysical speculation that does not bring us any closer to the truth.

Why is not important. Who did what to whom is not important. The story is not important. What is important is the pain and stopping the pain.

If you know that you are triggered by something (such as someone hurt your feelings; someone didn’t care about something in the same way that you did; or you can’t stop thinking about someone), you don’t have to rehash every detail of that to figure it out. There is nothing to figure out. You already have all the information that you need. That information is that you are holding on to something that hurts you.

Just release the trigger so that it no longer has the power to hurt you.

Stories give events context. That’s all. If jealousy is your trigger, you probably have many stories around that that highlight that for you. If insecurity is your trigger, you probably have a lot of stories about that. If it’s your weight, not feeling loved, feeling lonely, or feeling invisible, there are probably many stories around that.

The problem isn’t what others are doing to you. You have no control over others. What this situation is showing you is your work, your challenge areas. It’s about how are you going to liberate yourself from this thing that triggers you. When you look at it this way, being triggered becomes a gift because it shows you how you can grow beyond your current limitations. Becoming lost in your story keeps you stuck where you are.

When shot with an arrow, remove it. Engage in practical efforts to resolve the problem. Since you are in control of you, you have a really great shot at making a complete recovery. If, after that, you still want to understand the story, go back and investigate. I think you may find that it has lost its importance because the need to know tends to be a way to avoid healing. Once you have learned from your life, the story tends to lose all significance.

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