The Beatles were in the middle of recording what many regard as their finest album – The White Album.
It’s my favourite Beatles album. More than that, my favourite record full stop.
But Ringo Starr, their happy-go-lucky drummer, couldn’t take it any more.
It was tough for Ringo. The other three had been together longer. They’d bonded through the days of Hamburg. They had been The Beatles from the outset.
But not Ringo. He’d been a Hurricane rather than a Beatle.
During those months in Hamburg, Pete Best was The Beatles drummer. Ringo was drumming for Rory Storm and The Hurricanes.
Ringo came later. He was the add-on when they let Pete go.
Still, there’d been plenty to bond them since.
John, Paul, George and Ringo shared the craziness of Beatlesmania together. They broke America together. They were in each others pockets for years. They were brothers now.
But something was eating away at Ringo. Something was telling him that he was the outsider. It was telling him that the others didn’t like him that much.
He’d see John, Paul and George – the original Beatles – and he saw their togetherness. It was a togetherness that he felt excluded from.
He didn’t feel good. He was sat there in the studio, not feeling part of it. He’d had enough.
So, in the middle of recording my favourite album, Ringo decided. He was quitting The Beatles.
He visited John first. He plucked up the courage to knock on the door of John’s room.
John invited him in and Ringo laid his soul bare.
“Look”, he said. “I just don’t feel right. I don’t feel that I’m part of this. You three seem so close.”
John looked stunned.
“Wow”, he said. “I thought it was you three!”
Now Ringo was confused. So he went to visit Paul to explain why he was quitting.
Paul let him in and Ringo said the same.
“Paul, I don’t feel part of this. You three are so close.”
This time it was Paul who looked stunned.
“Wow,” he said. “I thought it was you three!”
Ringo didn’t reach George. He no longer needed to. He realised that every Beatle was feeling the same insecurity.
“The others like each other more than they like me”, they all thought.
Every Beatle, at the very same time, was telling themself the same story.
“I don’t belong here.”
So he didn’t quit The Beatles. He picked up his drumsticks and had fun being a Beatle again.
Ringo’s virtue was that he was honest and vulnerable. He shared what was really going on for him.
But what if he’d handled it differently? What if he’d felt angry at the exclusion he had imagined?
What if he’d attacked the others for their imagined crime, rather than sharing what he felt.
He could have verbally bombarded his band mates. He could have told them they were a terrible bunch for how they had treated him.
Not only would he have quit the band, but he’d have lost his three best pals. All for a story that the others were secretly sharing too.
He’d have lost everything for something that wasn’t even true.
I remember my own Ringo moment. I was in a play. It was a large ensemble of actors.
I was new to the company. I felt on the outside, something made worse by the fact that I’d been cast in the lead role.
It wasn’t their doing. It was my own chatter.
I shared it with one of the other actors.
I said “I feel like I’m on the outside of the circle here.”
She looked at me, as stunned as John and Paul had looked at Ringo, and – with disbelief – exclaimed: “You??!!”
She saw me as someone right in the centre of the circle. It was incredulous to her that I could see myself on the edge of it.
And yet I did.
In that moment, my story weakened in the way that Ringo’s had.
It’s like we all have something sat in the corner trying to get us to believe stuff about ourselves. Ringo had it. John had it. Paul had it. I had it.
This creature that feeds us lies that we accept as gospel. Its favourite trick is to persuade us of things that are not true.
Because it knows that the stories we tell ourselves have power.
Those stories get in the way of our fullest life. They get in the way of our hopes, our dreams, our friendships.
They stunt our potential because they persuade us to edit ourselves. They limit our confidence.
They can make a person quit The Beatles.
They can get in the way of us reaching out for opportunities that would enrich us.
They can get in the way of the social connections we long for.
“I won’t belong.”
“They won’t like me.”
“I’m not good enough.”
Yet it is all imagination.
How powerful our stories are that they can change the things we do.
Yet, knowing this, how powerful it could be if we change our stories to ones that fuel us rather than limit us.
In many ways, this is the fundamental job of personal change. To begin with one set of stories, and rewrite them.
To start with a story that limits us, and to finish with a story that sets us free.
To see Ringo tell this story for himself, check the video below:
Alun Parry is Director of The Liverpool Psychotherapy Practice