Who would you be without your story?

Reading Time: < 1 minute


By midlife, most of us have constructed a mental movie about who we are, who everybody else is and why the world works as it does. This screenplay incorporates Shakespearean drama, Quentin Tarantino mayhem, Marx Brothers farce and Days of our Lives soap opera – with a Brothers Grimm fairytale at intermission. We play the starring role in this horror/drama/comedy production whilst our co-stars and goon extras mill about in bilious resignation.

And why would we question these stories? They’re true, aren’t they?

When I was 49 — and in the midst of an existential crisis — I encountered The Work of Byron Katie at a workshop run by her Australian offsider, Rosie Stave. Rosie asked:“Who would you be without your story?” and it’s the best question I’ve ever heard. Until then, I believed my thoughts and this led to stress, paranoia and conflict.

It turns out that my life was a story and I had made it up. Therefore, it was up to me to unravel it.

If you’re looking for a powerful way to question stressful beliefs and the stories around them, then check out Byron Katie’s website (linked below). Many of the resources, including worksheets and video clips, are free and her organisation runs workshops all over the world.

The Work of Byron Katie
Rosie Stave


Author: Claire Bell
Claire Bell is the health and wellbeing editor of Midlifexpress. She is the author of Stone Age Secrets for Mind and Body and Comma Magic. Print and ebooks available on Amazon.

4 thoughts on “Who would you be without your story?

  1. I was told recently about how in narrative therapy the client is encouraged to reconceptualise their life story. I know I’ve ‘rewritten’ and continue to rewrite my life story many times – how I see it changes as I come across new information and new experiences. It can be difficult to release an old version for a newer one. But then I become as attached to the new version… I guess Byron Katie’s question is a way into becoming aware of this attachment and how it might restrict us?

    1. Yes, Merridy. Byron Katie’s invitation is to consider the possibility that none of our stories are true, even the revised ones. Reframing old stories is useful to a point because the reframing softens and opens us to new perspectives — including the radical notion that we are not our thoughts and the stories we concoct comprise a stale stand-up routine with us as the comic and a captive audience fast asleep in their seats.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *