What’s the Story You’re Telling Yourself? (and How to Break Free)

Maybe you’ve experienced this one yourself. Do the traits that initially drew you to your spouse now drive you insane?

Umm. U-huh.

Here’s an example: my friend Jessie once loved how steady and predictable her husband was. These days, those same traits drive her insane. “It’s like being married to an old man,” she said to me recently. “He never leaves the house!”

I’ve found the same dynamic to be true in my own marriage. Certain traits that I once found endearing in Ken have since made me a little cray-cray (and vice versa).

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this dynamic a lot and what it means for our relationships, as well as how to get past it. And here’s what I’ve come up with:

We’re drawn to others who a) possess the traits we wish we had ourselves or b) repel us because we’re unwilling to acknowledge the same traits within ourselves.

So let’s start with A. For some reason, we’re more willing to see (or celebrate) positive traits in others than we are in ourselves.

For example, I often find myself mooning over friends who’ve grown successful businesses while raising children. For years, I wasn’t willing to acknowledge this trait in myself. I was a writer, damnit. What did I know about business?

Well, I’ve been learning. I’ve taken lots of business classes in the decade since I left academia and struck out on my own. And by golly, I’m gettin’ it. No, I’m not completely there—I’m still learning and probably always will be. But I’ve finally reached a point where I can acknowledge that I, too, possess some business acumen.

So that was A: claiming the personality trait, gift or wonderful thing you see in someone else.

Now on to B: This is what happens when lash out at someone else because the trait they’re displaying is something we’re unwilling to recognize in ourselves.

Uh-huh (and uh-oh).

Here’s an example: My friend Matt loved being married to a musician. He loved how creative Sophie was when they first met. He loved that she was going for it.

Fast-forward 10 years. Now that they have two kids and a mortgage under their belt, he resents her musical career. Why can’t she give that stuff up, he fumes, stop chasing her dreams and make some money?

When Matt could take a step back, he saw that the trait he was originally drawn to in Sophie—her creativity—was something he wished he could pursue. Yes, there was the very real issue of bills and paying the mortgage that needed to be dealt with, absolutely. But after talking with Matt a bit more, he finally admitted that he wished he could have the time and space to follow his creativity. Once upon a time, playing guitar had been important to him. Like many others, he’d stopped when he got serious about his career. He simply didn’t think he could do both.

But what if he could?

What if he could play for fun once or twice a week? I asked him. Even if it was just for himself.

Matt liked that idea. In fact, he got so excited about it that pretty soon he was telling me about some friends who got together every few weeks, a kind of household band. Sure, they just screwed around, he told me, but they had fun. His eyes were shining as he said it. Where he once saw a brick wall, he now saw possibility.

I share these stories with you because they show the impact that unacknowledged assumptions and stories have on our present day lives. Once Matt was able reclaim his own creativity, he was able to sit down and talk with Sophie about their finances in a much calmer manner. As a result, they’ve started to make some headway on where it is they want to go as a family (including getting a handle on those mortgage payments).

It’s when we don’t take the time and space to acknowledge those stories that we get into trouble.

As Brene Brown says, “When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write the ending.”

Man, is that true. I’ve seen this over and over again in my 19 years of writing and teaching. When we don’t have the time and space to acknowledge our stories (and let’s be honest: who does in this busy day and age?), those stories inadvertently run the show. We can end up feeling stuck or confused, without a clear understanding of how the big events in our lives have shaped us, without a confident path forward.

This is where writing does its magic. It gives us that space and support, as well as serves as a resource to help move through life-changing events in a meaningful and authentic way. And it helps us heal the stories of our lives so that we can move into the next chapter of our lives with ease and grace.

That’s why I write. It’s also why I teach. Because the life-changing magic of writing is real, people. It’s saved my life over and over again.

It’s helped set me free from the old, inherited stories of my past, and it’s helped me chart my way forward during messy and challenging times. In fact, I wouldn’t have a grief memoir out in the world if that book hadn’t grown out of messy journals.

That’s why I’m so excited to share my flagship Writes of Passage writing course with you. Because writing really can set you free. And this course in particular is a big part of why I left academia in 2005, when I realized I wanted to bring the life-changing magic of writing to real people.

We’re starting this next round on Wednesday 4/26/17. Won’t you join us?

Writes of PassageWrites of Passage:

Finding Space, Support, Clarity and Healing through Writing

Most of us are so busy and overwhelmed that we barely have time to acknowledge the big events in our lives, much less integrate them. A few decades ago, we moved through life with support from our community. These days, many of us are feeling disconnected on deep level, despite being more technologically connected than ever.

When we don’t have the time or space to acknowledge the events that shape us, it’s normal to feel lost, trapped or overwhelmed, without the support and resources we need to move into the next chapter of our lives.

Writing can provide that support and space, as well as serve as a resource to help us move through life-changing events in a meaningful and authentic way. In addition to connecting us to our innermost wisdom, writing helps heal the stories of our lives as well as helps us find clarity in moving forward.

In 19 years of teaching and writing, I’ve experienced the life-changing magic of writing over and over again—for myself as well as by watching my clients connect with their inner wisdom in order to move forward with more freedom, ease and joy.

As bestselling author and researcher Brene Brown often says, “When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write the ending.”

Course format:

  • 5-week online workshop in a private forum
  • Weekly webinars, guided exercises and discussions
  • Safe, supportive and confidential online community
  • Course begins Wednesday, April 26, 2017
  • Live webinars Wednesdays at noon MST (11 am PT; 2 pm ET)
  • Webinar dates: 4/26, 5/3, 5/10, 5/17, 5/24
  • Everything will be recorded. You don’t need to attend live to benefit.
  • $249 ($225 if you use register by midnight 4/20: use Coupon Code EarlyBirdSpring2017)

Click here to register: https://app.ruzuku.com/courses/21405/about

Tanja Pajevic’s Writes of Passage workshop was an inspiring, empowering experience! Tanja has the amazing talent of creating a totally positive and magical environment where each participant can feel comfortable and confident enough to share their most intimate work while giving deeply reflective and creative feedback to others.  She is the kind of mentor that makes you feel not only supported and encouraged in your writing endeavors, but also in life’s challenges.
–Sherrie Scott, Playwright

Module 1: Creating Breathing Room

We’ll start by creating time and space, just for you. When we go through big events in our lives, finding the time and space to address those changes can be scary. In this powerful first module, we’ll create a safe space for our writing, identify resources to support us as we move forward, and take the time and space to clarify what’s most meaningful in our lives—right here, and right now.

You will discover:

  • The 20/4 Writing Prescription: Why writing for as little as 20 minutes for four days can make you healthier and happier.
  • Why you don’t have to be a writer for this work to benefit you.
  • Why “toughening up” and “powering through” just make our lives harder—and what you can do about it.

You will receive:

  • Blueprint: 5 Techniques for Finding Your Power and Your People.
  • Compass: Recharging with Meaning and Purpose: 50 Time-Outs When You Most Need Them.
  • Guided direction and community support.

Module 2: Honoring What’s Brought Us Here

In this module, we’ll gently look at the life events, circumstances and beliefs that have brought us to where we are today. We’ll show you why critical self-talk and perfectionism keep us trapped and create more suffering, while self-compassion and self-acceptance free us.

You will discover:

  • How to Unmask Your Inner Critic.
  • Why Self-Compassion is Your Get Out of Jail Free Card.
  • The foundational belief that’s keeping you stuck.

You will receive:

  • Blueprint: Kristin Neff’s foolproof method for getting through tough times.
  • Compass: Crafting Your Powerful, Healing Letter to Your Younger Self Worksheet.

Module 3: Shining a Light on What’s Holding Us Back

In this module, we’ll safely look at the sticking points in our lives. After getting ourselves physically and emotionally resourced, we’ll explore the people and events that are keeping us caught in an old story, not the one we want to be living in today.

You will discover:

  • What it really takes to forgive.
  • Why allowing yourself to be vulnerable is your most powerful next step.
  • Why telling the whole story can set you free.

You will receive:

  • Blueprint: Three Rituals for Releasing Anger and Pain.
  • Compass: The #1 Guideline You MUST Follow When Sharing Your Story in Order to Stay Safe, Healthy and Happy.

Module 4: Creating a New Story

In this module, we’ll plant the seeds for moving forward, as well as delve into the brain science involved in choosing your next steps. You’ll clarify exactly what it is you want out of the next chapter of your life (not what others want for you).

You will discover:

  • Why our brains and adrenal systems run the show—IF we allow them to run on default.
  • Why Shadow Comforts Keep Us Stuck (and What to Do About It).
  • Why the Brain is like Velcro for Negative Experiences and Teflon for Positive Ones (and How to Change that Equation).

You will receive:

  • Blueprint: How to Quickly and Easily Retrain Your Brain in 5-10 Minutes a Day.
  • Compass: Befriending Your Inner Mentor Guided Meditation.

Module 5: Moving Forward with Grace and Courage

In this module, we’ll delve into the tips and tools you’ll need on your authentic and meaningful life path. We’ll set up tips and tools to help you stay centered in today’s busy world, and identify resources for when life throws you a curveball.

You will discover:

  • 5 Techniques for (Kindly and Gently) Turning Fear into Fuel.
  • The people, places and activities that most support you.
  • Why we put other people’s needs and wants ahead of our own (and what to do about it).

You will receive:

  • Blueprint: Your personal Values Worksheet to help clarify your current values (not what others expect from you).
  • Compass: What to Do When Worksheet: Moving Past Sticking Points.

Click here to register: https://app.ruzuku.com/courses/21405/about

And get the course for $225 instead of $249 if you register by midnight 4/20/17–just use Coupon Code EarlyBirdSpring2017 when you check out.

Questions? Drop me a line at tanja[at]tanjapajevic[dot]com and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can–or just hit “reply” to this email.

You can also find a list of Frequently Asked Questions  here (scroll down a bit).

P.S.: Next Thursday, I’ll be giving a LIVE training on Facebook: “Why Writing for as Little as 20 Minutes for 4 days Helps us Heal as Well as Makes us Healthier.” Click here to join us.

Here are the details: Thursday 4/20 at 11:00 am MST (1:00 EST; 10:00 PST). If you don’t see me, just hit “refresh.” Hope to see you!

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