Why we love a good story

I am currently reading the book “Sapiens:  A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari.   A book I highly recommend.  I am only a couple of chapters in and I am hooked.  Here are some thoughts triggered by reading this incredible book.

Cognitive Revolution

The importance of stories and myths is believed to have begun about 70,000 years ago.  At that time there were six different species of humans.  Homo sapiens (Us) were just one of them, and we began to dominate.  We began to dominate and large species became extinct at a rapid pace.  The other five species of humans began to die off as well.  We have multiplied and thrived so much that we are now the dominate species on this planet for better or worse.  Yuval makes a compelling argument in his book through extensive anthropological studies that this dominance came from the ability to make up stories, to create fiction.  He refers to this as a cognitive revolution.  Something happened to our brains that allowed them to begin creating fiction.  To begin to create stories that still to this day some 70,000 years later capture us.  It’s difficult to ignore a good story.

A Mindful Perspective

Although, if Yuval is correct in his hypothesis that the storytelling ability is what lead us to become who we now are it can also have its drawbacks.  Who doesn’t love a good story?  No one that I know.  Most likely, we are hardwired for it.  Have you caught yourself from time to time making up stories about yourself or others?  Since we are predisposed to negative information we tend to make mountains out of molehills when it comes to challenging situations in our lives.  The question you must ask yourself when you feel overwhelmed or deeply upset about a certain situation is this real or am I making stuff up in my head.  We do it all the time.  I catch myself in MSU mode often.  I have a friend who uses the acronym MSU.  Or Making S__T Up.  We can take a simple situation and take it far beyond a logical conclusion and see the worst for ourselves.  I am reminded of the Mark Twain quote “I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

Keep This In Mind

When you catch yourself getting so worked up about a certain situation remember that we are attracted to stories.  We are attracted to stories about ourselves and others.  We love to gossip.  Also, we are continually seeking out negative information in our environment as part of our survival mechanisms.  Your brain's main agenda is to keep itself alive.  Remember this when you are stressed and worried.  Train your mind to be mindful of when this is occurring.  Live in the moment as best as you can.  The best way to learn to be in the moment is to practice it moment by moment.

Until Next Week,

Rich Decker – Mindful Accord