Throughout this website we have introduced many “stories”. Some of them come from ancient myths, some from biology of natural living processes. Some come, more recently, from groups of people attempting to create new possibilities where they live, taking everything we know from history, mythology and decades of data about the consequences of certain beliefs and decisions, to collaborate on new solutions. Processes like Permaculture and our Thriving Communities projects follow this pattern. Out of cooperation and collaboration, holding all of the voices with respect in the tension of opposites, something new emerges, hence Emerging Stories.
But what happens when we’re in an old story, either our own or a collective story? How do we work with it? How do we move out of it? And, if the story isn’t transformational, how do you begin to step outside of it? How do you partner, learn from, or evolve the stories you are in?
Here are some steps for working with your own story. These are followed by some of our most beloved teachers, methods and resources for evolving personal stories.
- Become aware that you are in a story. If you are not consciously creating a new story with a group of people, you are undoubtedly playing out old stories from your family, your ancestry, your culture, your religion, your country, or even your own experience. Many stories that we live out are mythic in nature, named thousands of years ago to describe the inner workings of the human psyche. Some of these guide us in how to grow and come into maturity like the Hero’s Journey cited in our Patterns of Change section. Some are unproductive, like the Sisyphus story of continually rolling the stone up the hill only to have it roll down again.
- Name the story. Naming the story you are in is the golden key. Once you have the name, you are already through the door to seeing it from the outside. If you don’t know what story you are in, pay attention to the stories you are drawn to. Step back a bit to look at it from the outside, or from the balcony, rather than being on the dance floor completely identified with it. Look at the patterns in the story you are drawn to and which characters you are drawn to or repelled by. If you are drawn to the Star Wars series, as millions of us are, somewhere in your life you are working the Hero’s Journey story. Are you a Rebel, a resistance fighter who will always rise up from the ashes and try again? Remember, you can be in multiple stories simultaneously.
- Where are you in the story? — At the beginning? In the middle? At the end? For example, look at the stages of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. Campbell’s book Hero with a Thousand Faces traces its pattern through time and hundreds of cultures, prompting him to call it a monomyth for its universality. All of us are in some stage of this process and may have experienced it multiple times. Where are you now?
- Where is the story going? Is it a story of transformation, like the Hero’s Journey or the butterfly where you end up more whole if you follow the story line. Or is it a story with no resolution, like Sisyphus? Once you look at where the story is headed you can start to make informed choices in your life.
- What is the next step in the story? If you were to take a similar step in your own life, would that move your story ahead? Does the story give some clues about what to do next? How to behave? What to turn to?
- Can you step out of the story? If the story is not going anywhere you really want to go, can you step out of it and make a different choice than you’ve made in the past. Like Einstein purportedly said: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
Workshops / Courses / Trainings / Conferences
Voice Dialogue - A method for contacting, learning about, and working with the many selves that make up each of us
Family Constellation Work - therapeutic process that helps to break destructive family patterns of unhappiness, illness, failure and addiction
The Healing Voice, Jill Purce - Workshops designed to heal through voice and to help untangle the complex web of inherited burdens and transform them into ancestral blessings.
Invite Change - Training Organizations and Professional Coaches to Generate Purposeful, Meaningful Change
The Enneagram - Helen Palmer - Perhaps the oldest human development system on the planet, this "Soul Map" has recently undergone a renewal of scholarly attention within the context of current personality typologies.
The Enneagram Global Summit - An online series of presentations by many of the world’s top Enneagram teachers
Landmark Forum - A 3-day program designed to bring about positive, permanent shifts in the quality of your life
- Alexander Blum (Jung and the Trumpian Shadow" (2017)
- Hal Stone and Sidra Stone, Embracing Ourselves: The Voice Dialogue Manual (1998)
- Jean Shinoda Bolen, Goddesses in Everywoman: Powerful Archetypes in Women's Lives (revised 2014)
- Jean Houston, The Hero and the Goddess: The Odyssey as Pathway to Personal Transformation (revised 2016)
- Angeles Arrien, The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer, and Visionary (1993)
Dr. Jean Houston ~ "The Urgent Need for Transformational Story-Telling"
Recorded at an event "Celebrating Meaningful Messages For An Awakening Humanity" sponsored by the Global Alliance for Transformational Entertainment in 2013
A personal story of working with story
(From Lynnaea Lumbard, one of our co-founders)
Almost fifty years ago a dear friend initiated my peeking through the veil of outer reality into the realm of story, those patterns of narrative that help us make sense of our movements. She had just finished ready Erich Neumann’s Amor and Psyche and she was ecstatic. She told me the whole story of how Aphrodite’s son Amor falls in love with Psyche, a beautiful young maiden rivaling Aphrodite in her beauty…
I was rapt with her telling, having no idea how pivotal that one myth was to my life. It was many years later before I began to see that that the story was the exact path I was enacting in my personal relationships with men. I could find a modern parallel for each of the initiations in the story, each of the learnings, even getting seduced by the beauty box and then being awakened by Amor and admitted into the realm of the gods. The names were changed, to accommodate the different men in my life through which I was having the initiations. One of my lovers was Amor, the one who awakened Psyche. One of my teachers was Aphrodite, the one who sets Psyche on a series of tasks to develop her trust, intuition, and skills. And eventually I recognized all of the parts of the story in myself enough to know that it was an internal narrative.
I did my master's thesis on this myth, delving into the work of James Hillman whose Myth of Analysis showed me the path of healing indicated through the stages in the story. It’s not that Analysis is a myth, it isn’t. It’s a real process to undergo in real time. The point is that the path to healing that analysis can provide is laid out in the myth of Amor and Psyche, the story of how the Love (Amor) comes into right relationship with Soul (Psyche). Ultimately, the masculine Amor honors the feminine Psyche and together they beget a baby named Pleasure. In the end, Psyche is elevated to the realm of the gods, a poetic way of saying that the Soul is made sacred.
In other words when we love our own souls, we are healed, become sovereign in ourselves, and beget pleasure in our lives. Hillman ends with saying that the end of analysis is the end of misogyny, a fascinating statement for us to contemplate in our current culture. Sort of implies we will be whole when we love the feminine and it comes into equal partnership with the masculine.
Though successfully passing the first three initiations of Psyche, I failed the fourth, and found myself dropped into an even older, deeper myth of the Underworld. An ancient Sumerian myth, Inanna is the oldest recorded story in western civilization and chronicles the descent of Inanna, Queen of the above world, into the Underworld following the death of her sister Ereshkigal’s husband. As she descends, Inanna is successively stripped of seven layers of her outer raiment until she is hanging like a piece of green rotting meat on a hook, which described exactly how I felt at the time. I had just lost my boyfriend, my focus, my purpose. My dissertation was on full stop. I didn’t know where I was going. I was paralyzed and depressed. Until I was guided to read Sylvia Perrera’s Descent to the Goddess, which gave me the clues for how to be with the story. Her book was a life ring in a turbulent sea. It saved my life and gave meaning to the process I was in.
That's when I knew story was important and that we had to find out what story we were living in. If it is transformational, stick with it through the turbulence into the new state. Inanna is saved by the smallest of insignificant creatures, formed from the dust under the fingernails of Enke. They go to “be with” Ereshkigal in her rage and grief, just listening, just mirroring what is, not trying to change, speed up, or make her experience difference. They’re just present until eventually Erishkigal comes out of her despair and releases Inanna.
That’s what I did, with myself, letting myself “just be” with the pain, the fear, the anguish, the doubt, the paralysis. Not trying to make it or me different. Not denying it or trying to get rid of it. When we are in the deepest and darkest of places, what gets us through are small acts of empathy and recognition. Only then may we be released to bring our glory back out into the world.
This recognition of the healing power of story actually healed me and I turned from such an inner focus to an outer focus. If I can be healed by story, maybe others can. I learned to ask the questions: What stories are we in? Where are we in the story? What is the story teaching? Is it transformational? What is the key offered in the story? Where can you find that key in your own life, and like a collective dream (which myth is) begin to follow the instructions in the story through to its resolution?
Reminder to not ignore the shadow
Alexander Blum presents an interesting perspective on the Trump presidency viewed through the lens of Jungian archetypes. This article reminds us that it is not enough to just feed what we want to see flourish as we describe in our section on Feeding Your Own Story. We also must not…