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A true story, or is it?

Last week my friend was contacted by the police and charged with vandalism. Apparently they had footage that showed that she had tampered with a fen trap on the 31st of August. What had happened was that she and her friend, her friends daughter and little dog had gone out for a walk and passed through the grounds of the local distillery. At some point they came along a trap and my friends friend lifted the wooden box covering the trap to see if there was anything caught in it. There wasn’t and with her curiosity satisfied she put back the wooden box after which my friend picked up the rock that had been on top of the trap and placed back on top of the wooden box. Leaving things exactly the way they had found them. She then went over to the camera set up by the trap, waved at it and took a picture of it for fun before continuing their walk.

When the head keeper of the estate came across the footage from the camera’s around the fen trap he edited the material, enclosed some pictures of damaged fen traps and posted on Facebook that my friend and her friend had deliberately tampered with the trap and needed to be prosecuted by the police. He also asked people to tell him who the individuals were so he could file charges against them. When his claim didn’t get the response he wanted he reposted the video and tagged all the local MP’s to get more reactions. Someone came forward and my friend was then charged by the police.

A few days later the video has been viewed 8000 times and several people have come to my friend’s house to ask her if she is aware that she is in a video on Facebook. The whole thing has taken on a life of its own with hundreds of reactions where some are heralding her for protecting the squirrels and others are condemning her for destroying someone else’s property. In the mean while my friend is feeling victimised and has never had any stance on fen traps in general. She feels used and has no idea what she can do about the whole situation other than defending herself against the charges that have been made.

As a coach I’m once again amazed about the stories we make up and tell ourselves. Every one of us has a frame through which we view the world, this frame is made by our norms, values and experiences and dictates how we experience and colour the world around us. In the story that I’ve just told you, you can see a clear example of how innocent intentions can be completely misinterpreted. I myself have been guilty of creating a story that had no real basis other than my poor judgement and creative projecting, causing arguments and misunderstandings that could easily have been prevented.

The truth is that most of the stories we tell ourselves are not true. They are the result of the assumptions that we have made and the questions we’ve never asked. To prevent ourselves from making up a story we need to A stick to the facts and B ask the other person what they meant so we don’t misunderstand them. We form opinions on the behaviour of other people that are coloured by our own experiences and never question ourselves about the origin of our judgement. Learning to reframe your mind and examining the way that we’ve shaped our reality can be one of the most freeing things that you can do for yourself and subsequently for those around you too.

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