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Facts vs. Fiction: The Stories That We Tell Ourselves

Our minds think that’s what they do, but not everything we think is necessarily true. We interpret the information that we receive through our five senses to make sense of the world we live in and create actions that help us thrive. When we interpret information we give meaning to people, experiences, and things and that becomes our reality, our truth but our interpretations are not really “the truth”. They are just that: interpretations of the facts. Facts have actual existence and happen in real time; they are measurable and provide information that can be used as evidence. Facts are not tainted by our perception. Let me give you an example of the difference between fact and interpretation: “Sarah had lunch with Lisa and they talked about Sarah’s relationship with Mike”. That’s a fact. It’s concrete and I can corroborate that they talked about the relationship at lunch. An interpretation would be “Sarah is very unhappy in her relationship!” This might be true but it’s not a fact.

So what’s the problem with that? When we base our lives on interpretations we make only and don’t take the time to corroborate the facts we can be more susceptible to take things personal, get upset, draw conclusions or simple create stories in our heads that are not necessarily true and can cause much unnecessary suffering. Our minds interpret information all the time and our feelings are great at telling us which information needs to be double checked. We also need to consider that we all interpret the same facts in different ways based on our personal background. Sometimes those perceptions and interpretations can become an obstacle in our relationships if we don’t listen to understand and ask questions to verify the information we are trying to process.

A reality check can be useful especially when we are interpreting other people’s behavior and making assumptions on why they act in a certain way. Because we tend to take our perceptions of the world as though our perceptions are facts, we can always ask ourselves: “is this a fact or my interpretation? What are the facts that support this information? Am I interpreting this correctly? Maybe I need to ask more questions or check on the validity of the information”. Our feelings let us know if we are relaying too much on our interpretations and not paying attention to the facts. Next time you’re feeling sad, hurt or angry at someone pay attention to the thoughts you’re having about the situation and challenge them, stick to the facts, be curious about it and ask more questions. Journaling can be a great practice to start differentiating between facts and interpretations. You can also click on the image below to access a worksheet you can use to start practicing this skill. Don’t assume that everything you think and tell yourself is TRUE!!

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