I read a blog post yesterday regarding storytelling as a means of keeping a person "sick," stuck in the past, or marinating in their overall... bad place. The blogger went so far as to suggest that the telling and retelling of ones stories might be an addiction. *gets the crack pipe ready to share a story*
"I think we do it because it feeds a need for validation and justification (or even vindication) really. We need people to tell us we look good. We need people to tell us we âdidnât cheatâ with surgery. We need people to tell us we are successful. We need people to forgive us (?!) for regaining 4.7 pounds. Mostlyâ¦we need to believe these things about ourselves, but since we donât believe it ourselves, we seek the approval and agreement of others.
Hereâs my next theory: I think this behavior is an addiction. I say this because I am an addict, and I know how easy it is to become addicted to the feeling you get when people praise you, or when people condemn others who dare to disagree with you. I believe itâs an addiction because, I am never content to stop telling the story to just ONE PERSON. Oh, sureâ¦I might start with my best friend, but once I curry her agreement (and know sheâs on my team, of course), I have to go collect OTHERS, or I might stop believing my story. Of course, Iâll have to embellish my story a little to get others to agree with me. I might have to make it sound more dire, or harrowing, or riveting. And, with each telling, the story will become more powerful, more believable, and more tellable.
Given that, how can I NOT share a riveting, powerful, extraordinary, unbelievable story with EVERYBODY. EVERYWHERE???
Itâs a regular feeling-feeding frenzy. And it sounds like Addiction to me."
As I get the visual of myself lowering a chum bucket (blog post) into the sharky waters (The Interwebz) Yeah. Because I'm trolling to Find Others to Agree With Everything I Say, right? I ... guess?
I apologize? *takes a hit*
What is addiction?
The seven criteria for substance dependence are:
(1) Tolerance is defined by either of the following:
(a) A need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect.
(b) Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance.
(2) Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following: (a) The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance (refer to Criteria A or B of the criteria sets for Withdrawal from specific substances). (b) The same (or a closely related) substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
(3) The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
(4) There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use.
(5) A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance (such as visiting multiple doctors or driving long distances), use the substance (such as chain smoking) or recover from its effects.
(6) Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use.
(7) The substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance.
-Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Text Revision, Fourth Edition, (Copyright 2000). American Psychiatric Association.
Or behavioral addiction -
The term addiction is also sometimes applied to compulsions that are not substance-related, such as compulsive shopping, sex addiction/compulsive sex, overeating, problem gambling, exercise/sport and computer addiction. In these kinds of common usages, the term addiction is used to describe a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage in some specific activity, despite harmful consequences, as deemed by the user themselves to their individual health, mental state, or social life. There may be biological and psychological factors contributing to these addictions.
The blog post struck a nerve with me. And here I am, indulging my "addiction" with likely 2000 words in response. *twitch*
I am a storyteller. I may not be much good at it, because I lack attention to detail (sometimes I have the opposite -- complete detail with photographic memory) I have poor short term recall, and I lose parts of my stories. Or not, but mostly I suck at storytelling.
That blog post just told me not to Say Things Like That, like "I suck at storytelling," because then I will marinate in that Feeling, and then You Will Feel Compelled To Give Me Sympathy Or Give Me Compliments.
Uh, please don't. #1 - I can read through bullshit. #2 - I don't need sympathy over writing crappy blog posts. If you did not want to read this, you'd just click away, right?
Thing is: I can't tell if I Suck. I might just be in the moment -- and writing out my feelings -- or sharing an experience because it's fresh on my mind. When I bring up past issues, I try to share them with as much detail as I can recall, but that's where I fail. (Don't Say That You Fail, Beth!)
I just come to the computer and type, as I am doing right now. I never plan to tell a story, whatever I share is whatever comes out of my fingers. Because, uh, my fingers are magic. I Am The Best Blogger Ever, And Everything I Type Is Pure Gold I Win At Blogging And Storytelling.
But mostly not. I know I suck. I blog because I can, not because I'm any good at it. And most of you quit reading about 200 words ago anyway.
I would suggest that most individuals who find cause to make blog entries (for example) are, indeed, storytellers. I agree with the original blogger's suggestion that some people do rehash bad things from their past in order to garner more sympathy, attention or otherwise, but only sometimes. Some people tell stories to garner lots of things, attention might be the least of things they want. Ever heard of someone faking a debilitating disease for money? It happens. People do bad things sometimes.
There are thousands of situations that people Do Not Share On Purpose because they might rather have No Attention. And in our weight loss surgery community - in particular, People Do Not Share Lots Of Things Because -
They do not want to expose personal history, it HURTS.
They don't want to appear less than ... anyone else.
They may find that it's better to hide lots of things about themselves because they feel judged.
Here is a comment from someone else in the community, who has dealt with some serious shit, in regards to this topic -
"Revisiting the past is a necessary evil for many of us that need to deal with the original reason of why they became obese in the first place. People need to tell their story to help them heal in order to get to that next step of recovery and happiness. The events that happen in a personâs life that causes them to become obese are countlessâ¦ some are abused, molested, lose a role model, bullied, eating disorders, and alcoholismâ¦ and on and on we can go. These are real issues and HAVE to be spoken about.
Once a person loses the weight their life will NEVER immediately be a flip of a coin and have a âHALLELUJAH I AM HEALEDâ scenario, the truth of the matter is the internal, physiological and mental causes and issue will take years of talking, therapy and talking, and more therapy to be resolved or repressed to a manageable level. So, to answer the questions below:
What would happen if you stopped telling your story? If people stop telling their story they could regress, gain weight, have a transfer of addictions, or simply become depressed and have a feeling of being unwanted. People have to tell their story, because for most that is the ONLY therapy they can get / afford. Lets face it when we lose all the weight we become a âdifferentâ person.
- What would happen if you stopped saying where youâve been and focused on where you ARE? Again refer to the above. Simply put, where you have been (the past) is what got you to where you are today (it is a part of you). You CAN NOT forget about the past, because for most of us, the past is who and what you are it is where you spent most of your life. The new you is honestly a small fraction of who you are and learning the new you will take years.
- What would happen if you lived in the now, rather than in the past? Living in the now and not in the past has to be a balance. You have to talk about the past in order to make the now a better place. You have to talk about the past in order to improve quality life for the now. You have to talk about the past to deal with the emotional issues that all of us have to make today better.
THE BARIATRIC AFTER LIFE (TM) IS NOT ALL ROSES AND BUTTERFLIES LIKE SOME IN THE COMMUNITY MAKE IT OUT TO BE. You canât shy away from the bad, or it will never go away."
I agree, to much of that.
In order to heal remember you have to tell your story, seek professional help, join a support group that is right for you and if you fall down or regress, remember you are not alone, and continue to fight and tell that story.
The blogger says -
Each time you speak the negative â each time you retell your story â you give it renewed energy. Each time you replay that tape about how disappointed you are in this or that (person, behavior, event), you give it new life, new purpose, new meaning. But, you know what? If you just leave it unsaid and move forward, the story fades away in significance, power and meaning. Amazing.
And MM says -- Then You Find Yourself In Therapy at Age 35, Crying Because You Have No Fucking Clue Why You Are So SAD. Or, why you are binge eating again, or why you are ____________.
Some story-tellers make up (better than the reality...) stories about themselves to avoid having to deal with (or answer questions about) who they really are and where they came from. I have seen people create personas for themselves to shield their real selves. Lots of this is about protection, fear and not DEALING WITH THE PAST, and sometimes people are truly stuck in their past, or dealing with severe narcissism.
(I know, I know, I've got a ridiculous cartoonish banner up top and a blog called, Melting Mama. I did not know that I would be blogging long-term, nor that anyone would ever see the stupidity that is my name. That said, it's really me. I am cartoonish. It's not fake.)
Their motive might be as simple as making themselves appear shiny and special, because their reality sort of blows. We sell, of ourselves, what we want Others To See.
"I believe that the more we focus on the pastâ¦our unhappiness, discontentment, rage, disappointments, hurt, pain â even successes â the less we live in the present. "
We NEED to clean out ours pasts in order to move on!
I would suggest that storytellers choose to share what we do in some type of self-preservation. Some of us share many facets of our lives, including things that aren't so shiny. Many story-tellers (bloggers, mostly professional-types) try to maintain a mostly positive storyline, and that can be helpful to those who need to see those kind of messages.
But, often, positive-only storytellers have something to sell us. It's just the truth. If I want to sell you something, I do it with a positive spin. (I know how to sell something, go find a review post for a product I really LIKE. It's mostly positive.) I wouldn't dare give you the reality of post op weight loss surgery life if I wanted to sell you... weight loss surgery. But I am not in the business of selling weight loss surgery, nor the happy that comes post operatively.
And the truth of the life after WLS, for many, sucks. Not all the time, and not forever. And for some it's super-awesomely-wicked-great, and that's super! Go YOU! But, for many it's not. Would yo ulike to discuss how many people I've been in contact with in the last three months that were suicidal?
It's a problem. Stuffing our issues back in our pasts? Does Not Help In the Least.
You are not alone.
And it gets better.
These are a few of a handful of powerful messages that an elegantly designed "belonging intervention" by social psychologist and Stanford assistant professor Gregory Walton conveys to study participants who are going through a difficult period.
In a series of ongoing studies, first published in 2007 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the belonging intervention uses a technique known as "attributional retraining" to help people shift blame for negative events from "It's just me" to "I'm not alone, and there are others going through it."
The goal is to convey to the subjects that when bad things happen, it doesn't mean they don't belong in general.
Why is this important?
"We don't have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that's what I want in life." So began a stunning meditation by Marina Keegan, a 22-year-old Yale graduate who died in a tragic car accident May 26.
What is the opposite of loneliness? Is it belonging?
Because as humans, we need to belong. To one another, to our friends and families, to our culture and country, to our world.
Belonging is primal, fundamental to our sense of happiness and well-being.
Belonging is a psychological lever that has broad consequences, writes Walton. Our interests, motivation, health and happiness are inextricably tied to the feeling that we belong to a greater community that may share common interests and aspirations.
Isolation, loneliness and low social status can harm a person's subjective sense of well-being, as well as his or her intellectual achievement, immune function and health. Research shows that even a single instance of exclusion can undermine well-being, IQ test performance and self-control.
Walton's earlier studies demonstrated that a sense of social belonging can affect motivation and continued persistence, even on impossible tasks. That is, if you don't feel like you belong, you are both less motivated and less likely to hang in there in the face of obstacles.
Even outside a research setting, these are valuable lessons we can all draw from as we navigate life's difficult circumstances. Though Walton's research has involved only students, his work has powerful implications for the workplace and other contexts.
According to Rajita Sinha, the head of Yale's Stress Center, stress itself is not necessarily a bad thing. But stress that is sustained, uncontrollable and overwhelming, in which people can't figure out options to solve their problems, wreaks havoc on us.
Walton's belonging intervention has the potential to downgrade uncontrollable stress by allowing people to put a narrative around their traumatic experiences.
It places those experiences in a box, he says, "with a beginning, a middle and an end. As a consequence, the meaning of the negative experience is constrained, and people understand that when bad things happen, it's not just them, they are not alone, and that it's something that passes."
So what exactly does the belonging intervention involve?
In a broad sense, storytelling.
Walton and his colleagues enlist the study subjects as experts to help "others" who may be similarly situated and going through a difficult time.
The researchers provide subjects with statistics, quotations and stories from upperclassmen about their experiences -- how they struggled at first but eventually got through it -- and ask participants to use that information to write about getting through their own difficulties and how it gets better.
The participants, who believe they are writing for the next generation of incoming freshmen -- an audience many of them relate to and care about -- begin to engage with the material and use it to reflect on their own experiences, ultimately coming to the conclusion that no matter how bad they feel, they are not alone.
This is particularly powerful in settings where people have a looming alternative explanation, as in the case of minorities, women and gay youth.
Please read the whole article at