STORIES THAT “DON’T MAKE SENSE”
It has become common to say, “That makes no sense,” in regard to people whose lives seem to be beyond understanding. Someone is at the threshold of a significant success and seems to throw it away. Someone breaks free of a stressful or traumatic relationship only to return to it, or to forge another relationship that seems like a carbon copy of the earlier one. Someone who has learned the hard way that a business partner is untrustworthy reengages with that person in a new venture, nonetheless.
Here’s what I have learned after 28 years talking to individuals from all walks of life—from politicians, to CEOs, to people working for minimum wage, to prisoners accused of violent crimes; young and older; of every race:
There is no life story that does not make sense once the truth about that individual’s life is known and understood.
We are all writing the next paragraphs and pages and chapters of our life stories. Every day. Every hour. And what comes next makes perfect sense in the context of all that has come before it. Those who have been undermined by others early in their existences—and who have not come to terms with those experiences—may undermine themselves. Those who experienced sudden losses in life may be always waiting for the “other shoe to drop,” rather than able to move powerfully forward in life. Those who were rewarded for devoting themselves to someone else, to the exclusion of themselves, may find it incredibly hard to actualize their own gifts.
Whatever unfolds in a person’s life is the natural, narrative outgrowth of what has happened in that person’s life in the past. To the extent that we endeavor to recognize those events and forces, we can endeavor to be free of them. To the extent that we turn a blind eye to them, we are forever hostage to them.
Dig deeply enough into any human being’s life story—no matter what direction it has taken—and you will find the roots of today’s triumphs or troubles. Dig deeply enough into your own, and you will find self-knowledge and the keys to charting more productive and powerful paths forward—leading to profound personal and professional success and happiness.
All our lives “make sense,” even when our lives veer into trouble or despair. But what life offers each of us is the chance to “read” the earlier chapters of our life stories, understand the themes threaded through them and manifest far better chapters in the future. That is what is meant and promised by knowing and then reimagining oneSELF.
Dr. Keith Ablow