“What do we call a story that’s based on limited real data and imagined data and blended into a coherent, emotionally satisfying version of reality? A conspiracy theory.”
Brené talks about our tendency to “confabulate”, a term specifically used for people with dementia or a brain injury, meaning to replace missing information with something false that they believe to be true. The term is used for those with a medical condition, but it is something that every human does every day. It’s just our nature, in the way we interpret the world. This makes us great at telling stories, but not always so great at dissecting truths from a circumstance.
Now I’m sharing this to say that this is a big part of why it’s important who we surround ourselves with, and the conversations that we have. Because for example, if I believed my boyfriend was cheating on me, it’d be quite easy for me to summon up a group of girlfriends that all believed my conspiracy theory story, and we could take him down. But of course that’s not looking at the whole picture, the truth, nor communicating effectively.
So one of the reasons we do this is to make ourselves feel better (see above “emotionally satisfying version of reality”). To make ourselves feel better could be simply give an answer to our uncertainty, could be to prove our jealousy right so we have a reason to feel jealous; it almost always is to avoid taking responsibility in some way. As in, it’s often easier to handle someone that is actually cheating, than to handle the emotion of jealousy, confront it, address it, let it go, for example, because that would be taking full responsibility for the way that you feel.
I’ll leave you with a challenge. When you catch yourself jumping to conclusions, creating a story about he said she said, or making assumptions about why someone did something, or what they did altogether - speak it out loud right then. I’ll use the jealousy example because it’s a common one, and it applies to many scenarios - if you are having a conversation with your spouse and you begin to create a story about how they are lying or cheating, take a second to rewind. Why are you creating that story? Usually it stems from hurt, which can create jealousy and fear. So is this story based on fear, or truth? If it’s based on fear, call it out. Say to them, “I’m feeling really hurt and jealous at the moment, and I can tell I’m jumping to conclusions. Can you help me?” This creates a collaborative discussion, rather than an argument, or a me versus you. This creates the possibility of each person (yes, them too - maybe they were being hurtful!) taking responsibility for their feelings and actions, and allows for a more honest, authentic relationship going forward. Plus, if you ask for help (in your own words) when an argument is heating it up, it often takes the edge off. Asking for help rather than accusing or blaming each other allows you guys to get in the same world and work together.
Let me know if you try it - anytime! Note that not everyone is ready for this level of honesty, but if you want to build an authentic you, and faithful, empowering relationships, take the step. Trust yourself.