The stories you tell about your life influence how you see and respond to people and events, and in turn your personality shapes the stories you tell. I’m not sure if it’s a strange loop, but it’s definitely a loop. This article from the New York Times discusses some of the ways that the stories people tell affect their views of themselves, their happiness, and even their memories. I was particularly interested in the experiment where reliving a memory by describing it in the third person, as if it happened to someone else, aroused less negative emotion than recounting it in the first person. One of the things that I’ve found gets better as you go through life is the ability to take a longer view and realize that a lot of the things that seem really upsetting–bad times on the job, relationship troubles, bad plumbing, money worries, you name it–do pass by, and in the end you get through it and it’s just one part of a much bigger picture. (And you realize most of it really wasn’t worth all that mental anguish, so you try not to stress out so badly next time.) It seems a little weird to think about things that happen to me in the third person–to write a journal entry that way, for example–but I wonder if it speeds up that process of getting the big picture.
One interesting thing that the article doesn’t address is the role of stories in group identity: in families or groups of people who work together, for example. I’m sure they must play a similar role for groups in terms of shaping a shared identity and influencing how the group feels about and responds to events. (Not to mention the way shared stories can create or enhance an emotional bond, but that’s a slightly different topic.) There’s also the interesting question of how other people’s stories about you can influence how you feel about yourself and how you behave. Anne Tyler’s novel Patchwork Planet explored that one pretty well.