Illuminated Parenting

What is The Story?

Us & Them: One Type of Story

When I was a teenager, bumper-stickers started popping up with the saying ‘Don’t California-ize Washington’. Curious about what this meant, I asked my mother who informed me that too many people from California were buying up comparatively cheap land in Washington and turning it into concrete strip malls. Newspapers were full of stories about Washingtonians upset that land was being snatched up and once beautiful landscapes were losing trees at an alarming rate.

According to most everyone I talked to, it was all the fault of careless, greedy Californians who only wanted to destroy our pristine land for their ability to get instant cash. Housing prices were being driven up making it hard for locals to get into a decent house. I remember being so angry this was happening and mad at Californians. The war was against the enemy to the south.

This ‘Story,’ learned as a child, reinforced the belief that there is an ‘Us’ and a ‘Them’. The world can be divided into those that are trying to get us and, us, who just want to be left alone in our comfortable, undisturbed worlds. Us and Them is a deep and abiding Story we all have learned in one way or another. As with all Stories, it’s good to question. Is it really true? What do I believe about Us and Them?

More Viewpoints: Is the Story True?

As I got older, I realized there is another viewpoint that doesn’t require an enemy but gets the same result – looking at what you do want and taking action from there. I could rail against the perceived enemy or I could be for the ideal. I could be for Greenbelts, which is untouched land in urban places. I could be for zoning laws that keep acreage around houses. I could be for environmentally smart planning for stores and businesses.

Turns out I have people I love living in California and people I love living in Washington that are from California. Railing against Californians has nothing to do with solving the problem. I eventually figured out you can’t just get rid of a section of people and find yourself in Utopia. History has proven this over and over again.

Immaturity made me look at Californians as the problem but it was taught by my family and reinforced by a society and media that perpetuated an Us/Them view. The Us/Them Story is not uncommon, but is it working? Do you want to teach this view to your children? Why or Why not? What do you believe about Us and Them?

So, What Exactly is The Story?

‘The Story’, as I use it in Illuminated Parenting, is a series of beliefs, learned over time, starting in childhood, that create the view of ourselves, our relationships, and our communities. The beliefs are learned from the time we are born, maybe even earlier, until we can begin to think on our own, which varies for each person. The beliefs can also be personal, such as:

  • The world is an unsafe place.
  • Everything good comes to me.
  • I have to go it alone.
  • People are kind and helpful.
  • I am not good enough.
  • I can do anything.

If you have a set of beliefs that allow you to move forward, living life how you want, then you are in good shape to accomplish your goals. Seemingly, this does not appear to be true for most people. Even people that are successful in some ways often have trouble in other areas.

This is a tragedy because many of the beliefs we hold are seen as concrete facts but when we take a good look, they often turn out to be untrue, incorrect, or outdated. These unchecked beliefs run in the background like an operating system, long forgotten, but in charge of your decisions, actions, and feelings about yourself, others, and the way you move in the world.

I remember saying to a friend of mine, an old curmudgeon with strong held beliefs, that I wondered if we couldn’t get rid of the Us/Them attitude at some point. He laughed and shook his head, clearly dismayed at my ignorance and said flatly that Us and Them would never go away. I suppose that’s true as long as we see it as a fact, the past that will always play out the same way in the future, positive change cannot ever happen.

And yet it seems clear to me, there are plenty of instances where we see humans reaching across to enemies and finding common ground. It seems we are finding a way of breaking this old pattern and a new belief is emerging – survival of the fittest group – which includes the weak, the unlucky and even those who seem against us. And we are beginning to realize, as it turns out, we are just one group.

Stories Can Change

The good news is that any belief can be changed. Stay tuned as we continue to explore how to uncover beliefs and change them into a support system that encourages you, gives you energy and an enthusiasm for life.

Next from Illuminated Parenting: How do I uncover ‘The Story’?

No Comments Yet

Leave a Comment