Editing your life story (2)

Here’s a story I used to tell myself: I’m not good in groups. I’m fine one on one, but in groups I’m standoffish and socially unhelpful.

I told myself this story for a couple of decades.

And it turns out I was wrong. I’m not so good in crowds, but in groups someone like me can come in very handy.

I found this out the hard way.

About 8 years ago, after reading a book that advised me to do so, I decided to “face my fears” and therefore agreed to an adventure holiday demanding previously unknown levels of personal fitness in a land of large spiders with a group of total strangers.

And it was the group factor that worried me most as I sat on a 12 hour flight biting my finger nails to a record low.

Fifteen days later I was the only member of the group of 8 that crossed Costa Rica together who remained on good speaking terms with everyone else. I had proved the human bridge between 2 factions that developed about 4 days into our group challenge. The timing of which proved particularly unfortunate as we moved from hiking and biking our way (all manageable if you despise your fellow traveler) to several days of team sport. First white water rafting — where we all met with a near-death experience, then 24 hours of paddling through the hottest, slowest water I ever hope to endure.

At the end of the killer slow bit, we reached the Atlantic Ocean (having started at the Pacific) whereupon locals pounced on us, pouring champagne and shaking our hands. No one took a picture, no said a word. We crawled off to our first normal bed in a couple of weeks.

It was sad … But I did come home a new person. One that realized that if you’re stuck in the jungle with people who want to stab each other’s eyes out, I’m a better peacemaker than most. I’m good in a group because I spot trouble coming — I tend to watch and listen and bring into the fold those that might be boiling up into a silent fury. And, groups are good to me because they allow me to be alone but together with people in a way that’s can be a lot more energizing than one on one company.

My story about me and groups had been wrong.

Which brings me to the moral of the story (according to psychologist Timothy Wilson), sometimes the best way to rewrite a personal narrative story is to assume that it’s wrong and act accordingly.

Or as someone once put it — it’s easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking than it is to think yourself into a new way of acting.


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