Ep 10: The Stories We Tell Ourselves: A Conversation With My Husband

I’ve been waiting for this! An opportunity to bring my husband on the show with me.

His name is Cris Cunningham and he’s been by my side for 24 years. We’ve lived a lifetime together – and some years have been so hard that it feels like 5 lifetimes!

But growing and learning in this life with each other has been a beautiful gift.

Cris Loves Stories. From the time we met, he’s been passionate about telling stories – through acting, writing, and film-making.

In this episode, we talk about the importance of the stories we tell ourselves. Our minds are creative, imaginative, and spectacular! However, they gravitate to the negative. And we tend to beat ourselves and each other up.

If this helped us actually do better, I’d say let’s keep it up. But it doesn’t. The negative stories we tell ourselves about who we are, hold us back.

But when we change the way we talk to ourselves – when we change the way we see our partners – we open the door to possibilities. We become expansive and love bigger. Because that’s how we’re made. We are made full of love and kindness – when we tap into our true selves, everything changes. For the better!

Listen to Episode 10 of Joyful Love to hear our discussion on our worthiness of LOVE.

If you want help implementing the tools I teach, I would be honored to be your life coach. Working with a coach helps you to create change quicker, easier, and with more fun along the way! Are you ready to create a more Joyful Love in your own Life and Marriage? Then click here to find out more.

What You’ll Learn From This Episode

  • Why the stories we tell ourselves matter.
  • The importance of seeing eachother.
  • Why it starts with Self-Love and Care.

Mentioned On The Show:

  • Cris Cunningham’s Blacker Acronym:
    B: Beauty
    L: Love
    A: Abundance
    C: Creative
    K: Kindness
    E: Expansive
    R: Receptive

    These are what we see in the universe. We are not separate from the universe. We are part of this beauty – so be it, live it, accept it!
  • If you’d like to ask questions or tell me what you think, send an email to podcast@rachaelcunningham.com
  • Go here to watch a free class and get on my newsletters. https://www.rachaelcunningham.com/

Podcast Transcript:

Line wrap

Rachael: [00:00:00] Hey, this is Rachel Cunningham and you’re listening to Joyful Love, episode 10, if you’re ready to bring joy and connection back to your marriage. Stick around. Each week I give you the tools to upload your thinking, open your heart and bring joy and fun back to your relationship because it’s not enough just to stay married. We want to love being married. Hey, friends, I have a very special treat for you today. I’ve really been wanting to bring this person on to my podcast since day one because he is the most special person in my life. And his name is Cris Cunningham. He’s my husband. And he is we’ve been married for 23 years. And he is a storyteller to his core. He has been a storyteller since the beginning of of time from for at least since I’ve known him. He has been the best storyteller. And he he incorporates that in so many ways. Right now he’s he’s done it through acting, through writing. His most recent endeavor has been through making a movie. And I get I get the privilege to just live with him and live this life with him through all the struggles and all the pain and all the the learning and growing. And he’s all in to do that, learning and growing with me. So with that said, hi, Cris. Hi.

Cris: [00:01:45] So one of the things that happened right away, we were trying to figure out, having not done a podcast together, we’re struggling journey wise. Like, how do we how do we start this? How do we, there’s no outline here. There’s no there’s a couple of words. Chicken scratch somewhere. I can’t even read them because light reflecting

Rachael: [00:02:04] At the beginning, I wanted to take the dry erase marker and some notes on his dry erase board and he said, Wait, that’s a Sharpie. I was, I’m so glad you’re in my life.

Cris: [00:02:15] So the topic that we’ve been exploring, it’s kind of like, how do we get into this? How do we get into the topic? And we weren’t sure. But we have both been on separate journeys together and trying to find trying to find a way to express that and live it out, but living from a place of not considering ourselves as awful or, the internal struggle that that is is just pervasive. And I’m not sure why it always is, but I can assure that story real quick.

Rachael: [00:02:54] Yeah, well, just to give a little I mean, a little bleed into what what you’re talking about here. We or I grew up in the church and Cris did not grow up in the church. But when we met, we were in, a church that taught the Cristian faith. And, a lot of… there’s so much good and love and compassion and kindness that is taught in that faith. But on the flip side, there’s also this underlying message that to our core, we are muk and not good enough. We’re not as humans. We’re just kind of I think the word filthy rags comes up a lot, because that that is a Bible verse that says that that our hearts are evil. And so we’ve been talking a lot about that of just as humans. We there’s so many of us walking around with this underlying message that we’re not good enough and something’s wrong with that. So it incorporates even if that’s if even if you’re not telling yourself my heart is evil all the time, we have so many core messages and stories that we tell ourselves that we’re not good enough, that that we should be better, that if I were better than these other things would come to me. And so with that said, go ahead, Cris.

Cris: [00:04:27] So I was going to say that when I turned 21, I did have a faith experience and that’s how Rachel and I met. And that’s maybe that’s a story for another day, I guess, on on how we met and all that. That’s that’s a really fun topic. But the so there’s another verse that I’m all in, kind of a person. So when I became a person of faith, I decided I would do what everybody would do, which is throw in the towel on every aspect of your life and go to Bible college, stop everything. And just so I went directly to Bible College. I think I was involved in the church for about six months when that happened. So the scripture that was popping in my brain was the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. So you’re you’re taught these things. And from my vantage point, the at this point, as I look back on what we were learning, it was very death centric, meaning, there’s a lot of talk about the death of Jesus. And to me, that’s very intuitive, I mean, intuitively, what happens is you start focusing on why Crist died. Well, I’m the cause of that, why Crist died. So now you’re focused solely on how desperately wicked your heart is and how you you did that. You caused that. But the difficulty for me in that now, looking back, is that when if you think of just even a creator that put a beautiful universe into motion and that creator builds life within people innate within that life should not be in our life.

Cris: [00:06:08] When we think about us being born into this world, it should not be one of filthy. Wen I see a baby. I don’t think that child’s heart is filthy. I think, wow, what a beautiful creation. So there’s a very strong discrepancy, I think there that guides us in and almost causes us. And I do want to tell that story real quick, because the interesting thing did I so am on a business trip this week and out on a shoot and then I decided I need a granola bar and whatever that t so I go into this little very small shop inside of the hotel and when I enter, I don’t think anything of it. There’s a gentleman, maybe seventy five years old behind the counter. He’s got a mask on because covid and all that. I come up to the counter and I say, hey, how’s your day or no? I say, how’s it going? He says he just has this really dark response and he goes, I’m fine. And it’s just full of sadness. I could just feel it. It was and almost broke my heart to hear it instantly. And I didn’t know what to say, but I’m putting my credit card.

Cris: [00:07:17] I’m actually looking down, going, what do I say? This is wow. That was I don’t even know how to respond. So I’m paying with my credit card. And the words that fall out of my mouth are another day, another dollar, really wise words, crysta, one who’s really cool and he acts. That was actually the right words. It’s funny how life will do that for sometimes. And he says he takes a deep breath and he sighs and he says they don’t pay me much here. And then he he starts he continues the conversation. He’s down the road. There’s jobs all over the place that are fifteen dollars an hour. And and then he starts to it’s just really strange. I don’t know why I have this happen from time to time, people will just open up to me and he just starts that. These are the only two sentences I’ve said to him so far, and he’s peeling his mask off and he says it’s because my teeth and his teeth are he probably needed braces as a child. I don’t know if you can get braces when you’re in your 70s or whatever, but I guess you could. But they’re pretty crooked, just the way that … the disposition of his mouth, you can see that he has teeth that are that are not straight.

Cris: [00:08:26] And I’m not judging that. I’m just saying that’s the situation. And he says, you see, it’s my teeth. I could never get a job paying more money because my teeth and I’m just, I’m just looking at my credit card still. No, I’m kind of waiting for it to process. And I’m going I have no idea what to say. And the transactions kind of ending at this point. And I almost want to say, “well, have a nice day.” I’m just not sure what to respond. I puts his mask back on and I complete the transaction. He gives me the receipt and I turned to start to walk away. And I say, Can I say something to you? And he says, yes. And I said, if I have a job opportunity right now, the reason I wouldn’t hire you. If I weren’t going to hire you would have nothing to do with your teeth. And I said, what’s holding you back from getting a job that pays fifteen, seventeen, eighteen, twenty dollars an hour is not your teeth. What’s holding you back is this story you’re telling yourself about your teeth. And he was he almost leaned backwards, he was he wasn’t repelled by what I was saying, but I think he was, uhm, I put him in a defensive mode a little bit, just very, very slightly.

Cris: [00:09:45] And I said, I need you to do two things for me. Would you commit to doing something for me? It’s going to be hard. And he said, yes. And I said, and by the way, my I’m about to fall apart. I’m about to just start weeping. I’m just seeing this little boy being picked on by kids that grew into a teenager, got picked on by kids. He develops stories that led into his twenties and maybe he never had a family. I don’t know. I don’t maybe it held him back from love. I don’t know all these things. I don’t know the full story, but I’m just imagining this little boy getting picked on by kids. And here he is. Seventy five years old, believing he has to keep a job that’s just minimum wage or seven dollars an hour or whatever it is. And so I say. I have two action steps for you, the first one is I want you to apply for a job, one of the jobs you just mentioned as soon as possible, within 24 hours. And then I said by Friday, I want you to apply for a second one and I want you to keep it very simple, making this up on the fly. I don’t know what or why I’m saying these words or anything, but I said, can you do that? And he said half heartedly, I’m sure.

Cris: [00:10:53] Yeah. And I said, no, I want you to commit. Commit, you’re going to do it. And I don’t you can’t you’re not allowed to take this personal. It’s not about your teeth. It’s the story that about your teeth. I didn’t actually repeat that. But, I’m thinking that, I guess. But anyway, I asked for a stronger commitment and he said he would and it seemed more locked in place. And then I said, but I have more assignments for you because most people don’t get a job on the first or second time. They need to apply for more. And I said next week, I want you to apply just to don’t take a lot of time, make it quick, make it simple, don’t judge it and just be just go and do it. And then I said, but I have more for you. It’s the same assignment on week number three. And I want you to just continue to do this and to get a better job because it isn’t your teeth that’s holding you back. It’s a story you’re telling yourself about your teeth. I feel like that little story. Now, in full disclosure, I left the room. I went over in a corner in the hotel and just wept. It was

Rachael: [00:12:04] You did. Cris likes to cry almost as much as I did.

Cris: [00:12:10] That’s true. We weave together the. But I think that represents exactly that’s precision of what we’re talking about. If you’re told you’re a filthy rag, if you’re told your heart is desperately wicked, what happens is you hold on and you cling to that story. It becomes mangled teeth. That makes you a monster. And if you hold on to those stories, they’re just stories. The story that we tell them about our future, about our current state and about our past. These are just stories we got to learn to tell ourselves better stories. We have to. We have to because they’re just stories. Yeah. He’s telling himself a story about his future. I cannot get a job, literally. Those are the words are out of his mouth. I can’t get a job because of my teeth. Yeah.

Rachael: [00:13:06] And I mean that that boils down to the main message that I really try to help my clients understand is their story about themselves is everything there, and they are just like that little baby that you talked about. They are a hundred percent lovable and worthy of love, just like a small baby would be. They never grow out of being worthy of love no matter what. And I think you and I have had a lot of a lot of a lot of our journey has been just a process of recognizing that we don’t have to beat ourselves up. We don’t have to we don’t have to criticize ourselves. We don’t have to criticize each other. We can look at each other and see each other and see ourselves as completely worthy of love. And one of my favorite things about that story is that you took the time to see him behind his mask, he was even wearing a mask. It’s so hard in our culture right now that so many of us are still wearing masks in public and like for a whole lot, sixteen, seventeen months now, we’ve been walking around with masks and we don’t want to look in each other’s eyes. We’re we’re not used to looking in each other’s eyes. So that’s the the only place uncovered. So I think there’s a lot of uncomfortableness there still. And that you took the time to look in his eyes and and see him and see his worth in that moment. Right. That’s where connection happens. That’s where we’re total love, whether it’s with each other as a married couple who’s in this for the long haul or whether it’s a stranger on the street, that connection and seeing each other’s worth is gold.

Cris: [00:15:07] I think the only way that that happens, I think we’re stranger stops another stranger and says something kind to them or, it gives them an action plan. He may have been offended by that. I’m not sure. But I suspect he’s I actually suspect that he’s going to get a I go back there in a month from now. And he’s not going to be working there, but he’s going to have a different job. That’s my hope. But the the Bible verse I was going to mention was that we need to learn to love our neighbor as ourselves. So the only way that that emerges, it’s interesting that we’re toggling between these Bible verses and how they’re what what people latch onto. If I’m able to love myself, then I’m able to share that. And the only reason I was able to even speak into that guy’s life is because a series of things led me to realize one day I was walking down the road and looking around me. I was in our neighborhood and I’m thinking, oh my gosh, it’s so beautiful. And then I remember having this weird aha moment, I don’t it’s weird how I don’t view myself in the way that I’m seeing the things around me. And I remember having, like, almost like an aerial photographer view, a snapshot of the whole shot, the whole scene that I was walking in and feeling like why do I leave myself out of the beauty of this moment? Why or how am I disconnected from that in my own mind? Everything around me is beautiful and I’m not included in that? That’s simply a story I’m telling myself.

Rachael: [00:16:45] That’s so good.

Cris: [00:16:46] So in the last two or three, that was about three years ago and I beat the crap out of myself mentally for years, saying, “man, you’re so stupid. Or you’re an idiot.” Things like that.

Rachael: [00:16:57] Gosh.

Cris: [00:16:58] Despite all I’m doing. Right. So I think self reflection, I guess it brings us to that place. If we start to train ourselves to catch those stories, catch those thoughts that are just horrible things I was saying about myself. I would never say to you or other people, I don’t want to think that about, but learning to see the world and the universe around us as beautiful, we already do that naturally include yourself in that. Yeah.

Rachael: [00:17:33] And I think sometimes, the the more I beat myself up, the more I want to shift blame sometimes. And so then I do start beating other people up, whether it’s verbally or just in my head, and that affects all of our relationships. I mean, so I mean, the really the more we can see our own worth and see how I mean, absolutely magnificent. I wish I could really explain how I feel about us right now. But, we are magnificent creatures, we are beautiful. Our brains are so powerful, our hearts are full of love and kindness. And when we see that in ourselves and when we feel that truly there is no nothing you can do but to spill that out on other people, whether it’s your partner or your kids or anyone. So, I mean, that’s that’s where it’s at, man.

Cris: [00:18:41] One thing that … just back to connecting with what you just with what I just mentioned, if you think about it, the human eye will not see the entire universe, not in our lifetime anyway. And in other words, if we went off to a far off pocket of the universe and we saw what was there, it would be unfathomable beauty. And that happens if you land on the moon. It happens if you’re in fifteen galaxies away from us or whatever. So my point of that is the way that the universe has been built, how how it’s created, how it’s even set in motion. It’s beautiful. It’s stunning. We are not separate from that. We’re part of that completely part of that when I look at the universe. So if we’re looking at the things around us and we are since we’re saying we’re part of it, we’re if you if you look at how it’s set in motion, you think about the sun is perfectly positioned. So that heats us. Vitamin D comes from the sun and into my skin. The grass thrives because of the sun. Our fuel comes from the earth, which is energy packed. Because of the sun, it’s all of this stuff because of the sun. That’s one piece of the universe. And I’m talking about it’s all there sustaining our life. It’s it’s a kind of universe, the way that it has been gifted us. It is a kind thing. So, again, if we’re paralleling ourselves to what we see, then at our core, the truest part about who we are is not that we’re filthy rags.

Cris: [00:20:11] It’s not that I’m desperately wicked. It’s that I am kind to the core, literally to the DNA. We are made of stardust. And I’ve heard someone say that We’re literally made of the same stuff stars are made of. The core of us is kindness. And love. I see the grass thriving, it’s abundant. Guess what, I’m abundant. I’m a thriving creature. Life within me is thriving. And think about this: whatever that invisible forces inside of us is that can cause a chemical reaction within a single cell and then fire hundreds of thousand hundreds of chemical reactions within one single second inside one single cell. Hundreds of thousands of of chemical reactions happening — but it’s happening in millions of cells simultaneously … You know what I mean? Go back to the Bible verseses … one says, “We are fearfully and wonderfully made.” When I look around the universe, I see a beautiful, loving, abundant, kind place that’s creative to the core. And it’s so gorgeous, so gorgeous. It’s expanding it’s ever expanding universe that we live in. That’s what I mean? They say, it’s an ever expanding universe. We don’t know where the edges and it’s just it continues to go out. But I also see a world that’s receptive to me. I’m allowed to walk on the grass. I’m allowed to feel the wind on my skin I’m I’m able to receive those things. And it’s it’s allowing me to do that, whatever that means. And I don’t I don’t know everybody’s worldview, and I don’t mean anything more than what I just said by literally I can walk outside and feel what the universe has gifted me.

Rachael: [00:21:43] Yeah.

Cris: [00:21:44] Yeah. So to summarize that, yeah. I’m going to give an acronym.

Rachael: [00:21:49] Keep going baby.

Cris: [00:21:50] I did this, this was for me and I just give it to you guys to all those things. And I did it on that. It came not far, not long after that day walking down the street I had the snapshot and I was thinking, wait, what do I see is the universe? It’s B.L.A.C.K.E.R as the acronym and that has no specific meaning. It just happened to be the letters of these words that I wrote down and spelled out the word BLACKER, which is kind of cool, but Beauty, Love, Abundance, Creativity or Creative Kindness, Expansive and Receptive. Don’t just notice that the universe are those things. Notice that YOU are those things. YOU are beauty, you’re love, you’re abundance. You’re creative to the court. I don’t want to hear this business about “I’m not very creative.” That is not true. That’s just a story you’re telling yourself. You’re kind, you’re Expansive emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. And you’re a Receptive creature. That’s a simple way to start helping to begin telling yourself better stories.

Rachael: [00:22:58] I love it. Nice. So the question is, as we’re in relationships with other people who are learning and growing and struggling and all the very human things, how do we see them as the as the lovable and worthy people that they are? We both have gone through different points in our lives where we were depressed, where we were extremely irritable towards each other, where we were avoiding each other at different times of I mean, I feel like we’ve lived five lifetimes together sometimes because our life has been a pretty big struggle throughout the last twenty four years. During those hard times, how do we take care of ourselves because we are worthy enough to be taken care of. And how do we and I think I mean, honestly, we’ve learned so much, but we still have so much to learn in this of of seeing our partners when they’re struggling and seeing their worth and not trying to change them. I’m not trying to fix them, but seeing that they are exactly as they should be. Because they are worthy and lovable, and does that mean they’re always making the right choices? I mean, they’re always treating you in a way you should be treated? No. And that’s when you get to take care of yourself. That’s when you get to set boundaries or whatever. But but the foundation of how to treat our partners when they’re going through a hard time is to view them through that lens of they are worthy, they are complete, they never lose their worth. And I think you and I have gotten a lot better at that over the years,

Cris: [00:24:56] I think, because it goes just back to, in the last five years, probably the more focus on self care, just like literally thinking about those things for me, I’m a beautiful, loving, abundant creatures, kind and expansive. And being those things here required something within me to see a stranger, something more than just his teeth. And so that’s I think you and I are both more. We do our morning routines that help us, I think guide us to into noticing one another. And it’s just we’re self care for ourselves. You know, I think that Bible verse is actually a pretty strong one that learned to love your neighbor as yourself. Well, it starts with learning to love yourself and, yeah, telling better stories about yourself. It really does begin there. Hmm. And I do it every day. It’s crazy. The stories are crazy that

Rachael: [00:25:50] Morning routines have been huge for us in the last few years of growth. I know most of our marriage. I have always wished that I could have some time for myself. And I never figured it out. And the last few years, I have to I have to wake up a little bit earlier. I have to really plan to have that time by myself or it will never happen. And so, I mean, journaling in the morning has been huge. I actually had a client a couple of weeks ago say that her coffee time was a spiritual practice. And I was I thought, “oh, yeah, that’s totally me.” I get my coffee, I get my journal, I sit there in quiet. I’ve been incorporating some meditation the last few weeks. And that is my time to really love on myself and fill myself up so that I have more to give throughout the day. And you, what’s your morning routine?

Cris: [00:26:53] It’s chaos, the hope and the wish. But, I get to do it sometimes. But enjoy sitting down and I’ve been journaling more lately. I have a gratitude journal, then meditation. I have my own wonka-do thing. But it consists of gratitude, just being thankful for the things that I have. And then I take time to let go of certain things. And then I ask what it is that I want. And if I don’t know what I want today, then I ask what I don’t want, because that’s a surefire way of knowing what you do want. And I try to cultivate confidence in those things that I do want and that I can have those things and tell the better stories that I can have those things. And I imagine having them. So those are kind of the action steps that I try to guide myself through. I’ve been doing hot yoga lately because you got that for me for my birthday. How yoga is very hot.

Rachael: [00:28:04] You mean like hot hot or like sweaty hot?

Cris: [00:28:06] I mean like sweaty hot. I sweat more than everyone else in the room.

Rachael: [00:28:12] I bet everyone feels like that. Oh my God.

Cris: [00:28:15] Oh, but no, I’m pouring sweat .. it’s bad.

Rachael: [00:28:19] Well, how do you want to end this?

Cris: [00:28:21] Gosh, if you’re telling yourself a story, I can never have a job because my teeth, my marriage will never get better because my inconsistencies are because some story or my this, that or the other, because my significant other is doing this or whatever that story is, the words never and always get you in trouble. And I would say stop that noise and be present and be present with the thoughts that hopefully that BLACKER analogy might might mean something or have some meaning. Even if you build your own life, maybe there’s different things that you want to feel in your life. Right.

Rachael: [00:29:02] That is an acronym in the show. Notes.

Cris: [00:29:05] Yeah, of course. Yeah. But my my thought is just like the guy with the teeth if you stop telling yourself that story, make up a new one. Yeah. We are imaginative, creative creatures. Make up a new story, you

Rachael: [00:29:21] Know, yeah, rewrite your story,

Cris: [00:29:23] Rewrite your story.

Rachael: [00:29:25] Absolutely, yeah. You can rewrite any story. I mean, our stories are just are just they’re just sentence up their sentence after sentence in our brains and our brains gravitate to the negative. So we forget even some of those stories that are really hard and really negative. We forget to see the beauty in those moments. And I think parenting was was one of those journeys that I mean, this is a whole other podcast. But parenting is one of those journeys for us that we’re struggling so much and without intention. It was really hard during certain years to say, oh, there’s so much beauty in this. And there is our kids are freaking amazing. And raising them has been the ultimate journey of a lifetime. So, I mean, I would just say, love yourselves, love your partner … truly look into each other’s eyes. Even just to say for five seconds, look into each other’s eyes for five seconds and see their beauty tonight. That’s awesome. Thanks for joining me, Cris Cunningham.

Cris: [00:30:40] You’re welcome.

Rachael: [00:30:41] All right. It’s been fun. We’re going to have Cris on here lots. So thanks for having me.

Cris: [00:30:46] Thanks, guys.

Rachael: [00:30:48] Have a great week. Thanks for listening to Joyful Love. If you’d like to know more about my work, come visit me at www.RachaelCunningham.com

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