morgan-freemanIn fiction there is often a narrator who gives us pertinent information we couldn’t glean from the actions of the moment, directs our attention in certain ways, acts as a tour guide to help us understand the bigger picture. We are meant to trust the narrator. The are an expert or authority in the context of the story. However, there are times when the narrator turns out to be unreliable. We find out they have their own agenda, are actually part of the story and have no more information than any other character and so have skewed our perceptions, or are proved to be just plain wrong.

Like fiction, our lives have narrators. Our parents narrate our childhood until we get to be teens when our social life fills with narrators of various kinds, then our employers, friends and relationships take on their parts relating various aspects of our lives as they encounter them. Unlike fiction, almost all of our narrators will be unreliable. Sometimes this is simply because they are well-intentioned but don’t know what they don’t know, others because they can’t see past the obvious and have no access to the true information unspooling within us in any given moment. And then there are those who can’t or have no intention of narrating our story for anything other than to satisfy their own needs.

An unreliable narrator, like any other, tells us who we are, what our place is in the scheme of things, what to expect in any situation or even in life, what we are doing and how it is relevant to them and to the rest of the world. These truths are the truth as they see it or as they wish it to be and yet they are stated as fact. They are meant to be the fabric of our reality guiding our narrative. We are told by our narrators that we’re not good enough, need to achieve love rather than have it offered to us, that we should do this rather than that, like this rather than that. Narrators tell us we’re not smart enough, not fast enough, not tough enough to do what we dream of doing or being. They give us reasons, state things as if they are the laws of physics, repeat them enough that we internalize them. They tell us we should, we can’t, we must and this becomes the internal narrator we carry with us whispering the meaning of our lives. But they are unreliable. They aren’t speaking the truth, just their version or perception of it.

Whether well-meaning or otherwise, we need to look at the narration going on in our lives with suspicion. Unless it’s Morgan Freeman, feel free to throw out any of the narrators in your life who are unreliable. You deserve a fresh and dependable perspective.