Personal Stories: Ayesha Saleem-Malik

Recently during a call with Sarah I referenced a piece of wisdom – ‘…..but within you is enfolded the entire universe….’ – I had recently come across, which was inviting me at some deeply profound level. I emailed it to Sarah following the session. A gracious reply ensued – genuine appreciation and an expression of intent to contemplate and reflect on its’ meanings. Moved by this humility, I began composing my response to Sarah, and there it was – I caught it. An old internal narrative – “I wish I could contemplate and reflect on its’ meaning! Haven’t got a clue what it means!” – had appeared. Like a reflex. However, instead of defaulting to it and letting it run the show; in that moment, I realised there was a choice.

My reply to Sarah was literally, my new internal narrative being born – ‘Trust that the meanings will reveal themselves, become visible and manifest within me’. Typing it made it more concrete. I added a few lines around how I too would contemplate and reflect more deeply on the wisdom, and furthermore how I hoped to digest, embody and live ‘the piece’. At the time, I may have forgotten to acknowledge and thank the ‘old internal reflex narrative’, (it didn’t agree with the new one I typed!). Fiercely loyal, it had automatically and effortlessly done a brilliant job in keeping me super safe in the past. So extending my thanks to it, I am now turning my attention to ‘the piece’, ‘..but within you is enfolded the entire universe. Maybe the invitation was simply, ‘use me as your new internal narrative’. A very generous offer – a universe of infinite choice, energy, beauty, depth and colour.   

One of the key benefits I have experienced working with Childhood Story, is an awareness of choice. And I’m the author of that choice. A new discourse. I create the script, I get to be the artist. A freshly emerged insight is how the humility of a Story-guide can induce healing, and journaling precipitates hidden treasures.  

Shortly before the current lockdown, I was driving home, approaching a junction of two mini roundabouts, juxtaposed at the meeting point of five roads. My peripheral vision noticed a car coming in the opposite direction, approaching the other mini roundabout to the one I was arriving at. Cognitively I judged the car to be a safe distance away, it was not a threat. Interestingly my adrenal glands still squirted some adrenaline, and my leg twitched to brake, though I didn’t need to brake. My reflection is, I think our childhood stories and the accompanying old internal narratives work in a similar way. They can be very ‘preventative’ in nature. Constantly on alert, they can function as finely tuned ‘harm sensors’, kicking in like a reflex when activated. Their accompanying radar can sometimes stretch to convoluted and invisible destinations. 

Another reflection I shared with my son is how old internal narratives can be like bacteria! Some are good and we need them to survive, some are healthy to a point, some are otherwise. We may not always know where we picked them up, where they got laid down, but we can see the symptoms, if we dare to look. Ultimately my take is, they come from a good place but no one ever told us they have ‘sell by’ dates. 

As soon as I saw ‘a Skills Development Day on Childhood Stories and their Impact on Behaviour’, a year ago, I knew I’d be going, and continuing on. I’m learning, this ‘knowing’ is what I need to pay more attention to. So, the question arises, what are we choosing to engage with?


Written by: Ayesha Saleem-Malik, Story-Guide and Coach