The Power of Micro-Stories

Small Changes Add Up

magnolia blossom

Magnolia – image by DK.

I was brooding the other day about my addictive nature and how much time I waste daily in self-sabotaging habits to avoid completing things and thus have to face the possibility of failure.

Or is it the responsibility that accompanies success that I’m so afraid of facing?

The macro story here on a personal level is that I must always try very hard, frequently exhausting myself in the process. But I must always fall just shy of real success in the end.

Because, were I to succeed, the people I love would turn on me. I would be punished and/or exiled and would end up isolated, unloved, shamed and alone. So goes the narrative in my unconscious.

Living in a Van…Down by the River!

For those of you old enough to remember the old Saturday Night Live sketches with Chris Farley, the unconscious narrative that stars up in my subconscious whenever I consider threatening the status quo by doing what I really want bears an eerie resemblance to Matt Foley’s story.

Why on earth would my success, joy and happiness possibly cause anyone else to feel bad? I mean, that’s insane, right? Well, if you grew up in a dysfunctional family system (and most of us did), you began learning and internalizing a certifiably insane story about life – and your place in it – right from the beginning. In ‘my’ big story, here are a couple of reasons why I must never succeed:

  • It would “show up” my mom and my brother, both of whom played the role of the crazy-making ‘blocked artist’ for much of my life. My success would force them to examine their own shameful self-betrayals. This would make them uncomfortable and I would be punished.
  • If I had more resources I might just opt for freedom on all levels, including in my primary relationship. This would embitter my partner, who would then turn my children against me. I would be punished and/or exiled and would end up isolated, unloved, shamed and alone.

Better to honor my childhood contract with my family system to be the nice but weak-willed peacekeeper whose energy is always available to support the others, than risk the possible horrors accompanying success.

Changing the Micro-Story

It’s hard to change your narrative if you don’t even know what stories you’re telling yourself. In this case, I didn’t immediately realize I was telling myself a story about how I was too much of a loser to ever make any progress. What I did notice was that I was feeling particularly bad that morning.

Whenever we’re in the grip of a repressed or denied subconscious belief or archetype, we automatically fall into a light trance state. The mind, unable to choose between our conscious intention and the subconscious instructions to the contrary, starts to dissociate from the body and from the present moment.

This is a big reason why bringing awareness into the body in the present moment – something I do in almost every coaching session with clients – is so powerfully healing. The feelings in this trance included (K) generalized fatigue, a tightness in the stomach, and a heaviness across the shoulders and in the upper chest.¹

The inner dialog (A) accompanying the feelings – which I was unaware of until I had acknowledged the feelings – ran along the lines of:

“I waste so much time every day. No wonder you can’t finish anything. I’m never going to make it. I should just give up and accept that I’m cursed to mediocrity…”

Seize the Inspiration When It Hits

I have been asking Archangel Gabriel for help a lot this year when I find myself stuck in a mental rut. I don’t recall if I had specifically done that in the moments preceding this experience, but it’s likely. Suddenly I received a flash of inspiration: the idea came into my mind that ‘Yes, it’s true I don’t seem to be making any progress today. But I’m doing my best and that means I am making progress (albeit invisible on the outside). So I know² I will be making visible progress soon.’

Suspending disbelief, I followed this train of thought. The next idea to come along sounded (A) something like this:

“I feel it building up. I feel the resolve trying to build. Even though it’s not apparent on the outside I’m going to keep nurturing it. And once it gets strong enough, nothing will be able to stand against it! Yeah!

Whether this was the absolute truth or not (which stories are?) this thought filled me with a small surge of power. The heaviness in my chest now felt like a smooth even fire spreading outwards through the rest of my body (K).

I felt more energized and hopeful than I had a moment before. My body felt like it wanted to move. (K)

So I moved. I went down to my office, fired up the computer and started working on one of those unfinished projects. In fact, not only was the rest of that day enjoyable and productive; I’ve accomplished more – and enjoyed doing it more – in the days since then than I probably did in the entire month leading up to this experience.


1- Being aware of the submodalities — visual (V), auditory (A), kinesthetic (K) — that predominate in our various stories  (both subconscious and conscious) can really help you take back your inner authority. While there are a lot of great, proven techniques for harnessing the power of submodalities, it’s really powerful when you can simply allow yourself to become aware of which system the brain leads with when showing you a good story versus feeding you a bad story.

2 – Thanks Corin Grillo for turning me on to the power of specific angels to help us with specific life areas.

4 thoughts on “The Power of Micro-Stories

  1. Scott Daris says:

    This is the BEST post I’ve ever heard from you. Thank you for putting actual coherent words and thoughts to what I’m going through right now. I’m feeling you, too. Keep on truckin’!

  2. Janet Reichart says:

    This is fantastic; an important reminder of the powerful conviction of self talk, aka my head telling me lies. I am not always willing to discern the difference between truth and my favorite micro stories. Their discomfort becomes comfortable, until unmanageability sets in. Thank you for the reminder!
    Blessings to you.

    • DK Brainard says:

      Hi Janet, Yep, to everything you said. Thanks for reminding me to look at my current micro-stories and remember they are not the truth even if they feel like it.

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