I was lucky to be included in a Thrive Global post a few weeks ago, 11 Easy Ways to Instantly Relax When You Start to Feel Stress. I was lucky to be included, but I’m even more lucky that I read one of the ways to relax offered by one of the other contributors.

Apparently, elders in an ancient African tribe would teach their children to say this phrase when they felt threatened or frightened: “This is a story that doesn’t need to happen.” It would help the children remember that they are in charge of their thoughts.

I have been using, and using, and using this phrase since I read it. “This is a story that doesn’t need to happen.” It reminds me that I’m – more often than not – getting caught in my swhirlwind of thoughts. I’m making up stories. I’m imaging outcomes (usually not the best ones). I’m letting myself be run by and overrun with fear.

“This is a story that doesn’t need to happen.”

As I’ve written recently, since to the moon and back was published, I’m finding myself cracking open even further and learning even more about myself. I honestly didn’t think I had that much more to learn. 🙂 One of my most recent insights (or, perhaps, re-insights, since I’ve probably come upon this at least once or twice already in the past), is the sensitivity of my fear and guilt triggers – how easily those are set off – coupled with how much responsibility (and over-responsibility) I take on. Responsibility that isn’t always or all mine, but that I shoulder anyway. Left unchecked, I can do this at work. I can do this at home. I can do this with friends. I can do this with family. It’s how I was wired – it’s how many of us who were born and/or raised in extremist situations were wired – and I am damn good at solving most problems and working through most issues, so it seems to work out best in the long run. At least that’s the story I’ve told myself.

This coupling makes a somewhat lethal combination. I will fly into terror and shame way sooner than necessary and then take on responsibility to resolve everything, even those things that aren’t mine to resolve. This coupling is something I’m working to put down. “This is a story that doesn’t need to happen” helps me do that.

When I repeat “This is a story that doesn’t need to happen” to myself, I can feel my fear ease, my heart unclench, my breath come slower and more calmly. When I repeat “This is a story that doesn’t need to happen” to myself, I can remember that I’m making up stories that aren’t necessarily true…that don’t need to happen…that haven’t happened yet.

Just like the African tribe’s children, I have control of my thoughts – though I can often forget that I have control of my thoughts. “This is a story that doesn’t have to happen” reminds me to choose what I think, choose what stories I tell (myself and others), choose how much fear, guilt, and responsibility I pick up, choose how I live my life.

“This is a story that doesn’t need to happen.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

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