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Don’t Get Confabulated By Steven Greene

by | In the Magazine, Steven Greene | 0 comments

We are a storytelling species

According to Jonathan Gottschall who wrote the book THE STORYTELLING ANIMAL: HOW STORIES MAKE US HUMAN, we are addicted to stories.

Before written materials were invented or widely available, we learned and taught through a story. Early man, used oral sounds and gestures to tell a story. Medicine men and woman passed down rituals and cures through stories. Societal and family traditions were passed down through stories. We tell stories to our friends. We tell them to our children. The history of earth mankind has been told through millions of stories. There are even a bunch of stories in this magazine.

Through stories, we experience, explain, pass on information, and have fun. But sometimes, it’s not fun. This is another part of talking to yourself. Only this time, it’s emotional thinking through a visualization in the form of a story.

The problem is we have a tendency to make up stories to justify certain things. These are things which are usually not so pleasant. They happen to us or we think they happen to us so we make up a story in the form of a “mind movie” These movies are called confabulations.  If you look up confabulation in a dictionary, you may find this:

“Confabulation is a memory disturbance, defined as the production of fabricated, distorted or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to deceive.”

That is the definition a psychiatrist or sociologist might give for the mental condition.

However, there is another kind of confabulation. It’s where we have a strong emotional need to have a reason for something, so we bend the truth without actually knowing it. We create an untruthful story in our mind to justify an event.

This is where we all screw up in our business as well as personal lives. It is so easy to confabulate.

I’m not worthy stories are so much easier to create than I’m okay with me stories

Linda thinks,

“Joe broke up with me. I have never been good looking enough for that kind of man. He never really loved me because… (An entire mini mind movie goes here all based on false assumptions and hyperbolic emotions ensue.)


Joe is basically a giant ass. He is a 6 ft. 3”  bag of skin with a tan. He doesn’t measure up to any woman’s basic standards. Linda is a smart, really attractive woman who lots of men want to get to know. Initially, she was charmed by Joe. She knows it wasn’t a good match. She just wanted to have some fun and took a little too much time to move on. She confabulated a story because she wasn’t willing to simply say, “Bad choice, I shouldn’t have started up with him. The fun times were not worth the pain.”

However, by confabulating, she is creating the negative story that there is something fundamentally wrong with her. There isn’t. The problem is, we tend to believe our own stories. Studies show people sometimes cannot separate what they think they experience from what they really experience. That’s why eyewitness testimony is considered unreliable in many cases. We tend to tailor stories based on many things including who we are telling them to, especially when we are telling them to ourselves.

Confabulations also come into play in things that are seemingly working well

Ricardo thinks,

“My wife is ten years younger than me and is so beautiful. We have a fabulous marriage. We enjoy each other, have wonderful conversations, like travel, have great sex, and are committed to our relationship. However, she goes to yoga class regularly. I just met her yoga instructor. This guy is 25 and looks like Brad Pitt. I think she might actually be interested in him because…   (Ricardo’s mini mind movie goes wild from here)


Ricardo’s wife Lee is young and beautiful. But she is not very flexible. Even though Ricardo is older he can touch his toes easily, is the limbo king at weddings, and is basically in very good shape. Lee loves him and wants to please him so much that she took up yoga to get her flexibility going on. She never even really looked at the Brad Pitt clone. Unless Ricardo knows about confabulations, takes a break and un-confabulates himself, he could possibly create a drama where none exists. He could hurt his marriage and pay a painful price.

(This material has nothing to do with the very real and legitimate issue of harassment, abuse of power, and discrimination of all sorts that is too often present in our working environment. I believe everyone has an obligation to stand against and call out such illegal and unacceptable behavior.)

Now, when we take these identifiable simple relationship stories and extrapolate confabulations to our business lives, it’s easy to see how we can get short-circuited in some or all of our professional aspirations. If we could only share our mind movies of how the CEO, President, or fellow employees hate me. Or the fact that my new business plan was passed on by the Angel Investor Group and that means I am not competent or my ideas are stupid. Or the fact that we try a hundred times to start a home-based or part-time business and it never seems to work out. Then those mind movies start playing about “I’m not okay.” The drama works well but the creative or entrepreneurial spirit dies a real death, not a movie death.

Confabulations stop your plan for yourself or for your business to move forward. The mind movie says “why bother?” And then you mind-live the famous Mike Tyson quote,

“Everybody has a plan until they get hit. Then, like a rat, they stop in fear and freeze”

-Mike Tyson

It’s so easy to play the part of the one who has been hit because you don’t have to get up and face the fact that you did stop for a minute in fear or insecurity. But those who eventually get to where they want to go change up the movie by writing a different ending! – Fell down, froze in fear when the prospect did not buy into our huge project– THE END

How about but – fell down, froze in fear – got up and did it again and again until I made the sale to another prospect! – THE END. In business, the price of a setback is usually not that great. It’s the confabulation story that distorts our ability to take the next step.

To get this right, we must remember the human addiction to story and our tendency to produce movies in our head to reconcile fear, insecurity, hurt, unhappiness, anger, and cowardice. Don’t confabulate. We all do, so when you do, take a moment and rethink what you have been thinking, and know it’s usually not about the real you, it’s about the other movie you trying to defend you when you don’t need defending!

Watch a good movie on cable, don’t play a harmful movie in your head.

Don’t get confabulated.

 About Steven Greene

Steven is a published author and produced screenplay writer. He is the winner of numerous prestigious awards.  His “out of the box” innovative thinking, true creative credentials, along with C level experience and influence have enabled him to produce added value for clients, in addition to becoming  sought after as a corporate speaker and consultant.

Reach him at

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