Stories on Repeat

How do you feel about commercials? Me, not a fan. I try to avoid them, either by fast-forwarding the DVR or by watching Netflix or Amazon Instant Streaming. Unfortunately, I can’t avoid them at work. I see (or sometimes just hear) a lot of commercials at work.

As I reflect on story and choosing to live a better story, one of the ad campaigns that has struck me lately is for Ally Bank. I’m not a customer of Ally Bank, nor am I promoting their services. In these commercials, each customer is on the phone with a service rep and the customer expresses a fear, the service rep asks why, there’s a replay of the event(s) that caused the person’s fear, and then the commercial concludes with the service rep allaying said fear. You can watch the commercials here on Ally’s site if you’re interested, but to sum up, here’s the fears that the customers express:

  • “It’s just that I’m worried about, you know, hidden things.”
  • “‘Cause I’m really nervous about getting trapped.”
  • “I’m sorry, I’m just really reluctant to try new things.”
  • “I’m kind of hesitant about switching things.”
  • “I’m a bit skeptical of sure things.”

Then we see a vignette of the event(s) they associate with their fear.

  • A man falls through a glass door at his own surprise party, then while trimming a hedge, suffers a rodent-to-the-face attack.
  • A man gets trapped in a walk-in freezer, trapped with his necktie in a shredder, and then, while bench pressing, trapped under a heavy weight and a cranky cat.
  • A woman has three electronic device mishaps, including robot vacuum on cat violence and a robot dog versus drinking water incident.
  • A woman switches to a new shampoo that causes her hair to fall out.
  • A dad brings home a puppy to surprise his daughter, but then she runs away screaming.

While these unfortunate scenes are meant to elicit chuckles or even sympathy, what strikes me is that each customer depicted is living stuck in a fearful story, a replaying of the past negative events.

Does that ring any bells? How do we begin to break the cycle of self-victimization that we experience when the “worst of my past hit parade” is on repeat?

First, seek awareness. We’ll never stop the loop until we become aware that it exists. So, ask yourself, what negative stories are you being victimized by as they play on mental repeat? Which painful moments are on your playlist? What are the memories trapping you in a house with no door?

Second, admit or confess. Once we become aware, we acknowledge our awareness, we acknowledge the songs of sorrow, of sadness, of suffering, of bitterness, of pain, of shame, of hatred, of unforgiveness, of fear, etc. We bring it into the light. What do you need to bring into the light?

Third, contextualize. Find whatever meaning or value or worth or lesson you can out of your old story, even if the significance is simply that it happened and you are changed.

Fourth, tell a new story. You are the narrator and protagonist of your story. You have the power to choose, so use it. Make little choices or big, but make choices. Start small if you need to, but start.

It’s not a one-time deal. The repeat button will get stuck again, perhaps on the same old story. Next time it does, though, let’s hit stop sooner and move right back into the new stories we’re learning to live.


“It is interesting to notice how some minds seem almost to create themselves, springing up under every disadvantage, and working their solitary but irresistible way through a thousand obstacles.” Washington Irving

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