Journeying Toward Wholeness

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What’s My Life Story? PART 2: Getting to the Real Story

February 3rd, 2020 · what's my life story

In the last post, we had a good look at the power of our stories, and we began to explore a key question: “What’s my life story?”

“What’s my life story?” might seem like a simple enough question, but appearances can be deceptive! There are any number of stories that might be told about your life, but the key question is, what’s the story that you tell yourself about your life?

Uncovering the subtleties and details of your life story may take some real effort, because important parts of the story may be in the unconscious, rather than in the conscious mind. It may be a real process to bring that story out into the open, but it’s vitally important to do it. As we uncover the parts of the story, here are two key questions to keep in front of us:

  • Is the story I’m discovering authentic? Does it correspond to the actual facts of my life, to what happened?
  • Is the story I’m telling self-compassionate? Is this story of mine based on self-acceptance, and is it kind to me?

Is the Story I Tell Myself Helpful, or Self-Defeating?

Lots of times, when we start to uncover the story that really runs our show, we start to realize that it has toxic elements. This is often particularly true with stories from early childhood, or stories that are traumatic in nature, some of which may even be outside the reach of the conscious mind.

It can be really valuable to try and get in contact with the story or stories that you are telling yourself. Here’s a few things to try, in terms of getting in touch with those stories:

  1. Identify and write out the stories that you tell yourself about your life. Think back to your powerful stories about early childhood life, and think about the stories that provide meaning to your current life.
  2. Ask yourself whether those stories are helpful, or whether they undermine your sense of worth, uniqueness and meaning.

When My Story Stays Unconscious

“What’s my life story? –I haven’t got a clue!” It’s common enough for people to find that they have limited or no awareness of what the story or stories are that truly structure their lives. The stories are in the unconscious mind, and have an immense effect on the individual’s response to various situations. Yet they remain partially or entirely unknown to the conscious mind, which is often convinced that it’s solely in charge, and really can’t answer the question of “What’s my life story?”

There are ways to become more fully aware of our stories, and to bring them into focus. One is to think about the situations and relationships in your life that are most important to you, and that affect you the most emotionally. Once you identify them, really examine them to see if there are any patterns or themes in the way that those important elements of your life play out. You may well see key elements of your dominant story in those common thematic motifs.

If you remember your dreams, it may be important to see if any prominent themes appear in their imagery as well. You may well see key themes in dreams, including archetypal themes, which is to say, those very big, very universal themes that have structured human life for as long as there have been humans. As Jungian Analyst Andrew Samuels tells us, archetypes “cluster around the basic and universal experiences of life” — things like birth, death, coming to adulthood, marriage, key life struggles,and many more.

It may well be that there are archetypes in your personal story that represent potential for connection to your true story, and point the way to how to live it out more fully. Often, when one is confronted with a true or fundamental element of one’s own story, there is a shock of recognition.

Living from a Healing Story

In the words of Joseph Campbell, the great scholar of myth,

If you’re going to have a story, have a big story, or none at all.

All of us need to get closer to the power of our own personal big, healing story. No human being ever makes it through the life journey without being disempowered at some point by stories that are small, inauthentic and self-punishing. So, like some character in a myth or a fairy tale, life invites us to go on a quest in search of the real story of ourselves.

The journey to our own real story is one we have to individually undertake. Yet, a solid relationship with a good depth psychotherapist can be of tremendous support as you seek out the true story of you.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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What’s My Life Story? The Story I Buy Into Affects My Life

January 27th, 2020 · what's my life story

One of the most important questions a person might ask themselves is “What’s my life story?”

Why is that such an important thing? Well, it turns out that the stories we repeat to ourselves have a way of replaying and replaying in our lives. That can be a good thing for us — or something very debilitating.

Some people are surprised at the idea that we each have a life story that we tell to ourselves and quite possibly to others. “I’m not somebody important or famous! I don’t go around ‘telling’ my story!” Yet, the fact is, that in some very important and perhaps surprising ways, we do exactly that.

Recurring Themes and Bedrock Beliefs

Without realizing it, we all fall into the grip of certain key stories, and they can have an immense impact on our lives. We can all recognize some of the themes that appear in our stories, often from very early in our lives. Here are some examples:

  • The Hero Child – the one “destined” (or expected) to achieve great things;
  • The Victim – the one who always gets (and expects to get) mistreated by life or others;
  • The Outsider – the one who, for some reason, never quite “fits in”;
  • The “Good” Girl or Boy – the one who is destined (or expected) to be good all the time;
  • The “Bad” Boy or Girl – the one who always does “bad” or rebellious things;
  • The Caretaker – the one who is destined (or expected) to always take care of others.

You can probably think of people in your life who fit into one of these categories. Or, perhaps you realize that one of these stories governs all or some important part of your life. There are also many other “stories” that we can find governing all or part of our lives.

These stories are important, and they actually have a huge impact on our lives. That can be a very good thing if the stories genuinely reflect who we really are. In that case, they can help give our lives value and meaning.

In the words of the famous narrative therapist Michael White:

The most powerful therapeutic process I know is to contribute to rich story development.

While Jungian and depth psychotherapists might have a somewhat different understanding of “story” than White does, the above statement is profoundly true!

The Power of Hidden Stories

What are your hidden stories? The “narratives” that form and shape your life? As Jungian Gary Trosclair tells us,

One of the fundamental tasks we need to accomplish in therapy is to step back from the isolated details of our lives and get a sense of the larger picture, the patterns and themes that comprise our stories and to some extent define our lives. [T]hese stories … lead to our fundamental beliefs about who we are, how the world operates … and what will make life fulfilling for us…. Bad stories make us sick and good stories heal [Italics mine].

If we diligently ask, “What’s my life story?”, we can make conscious stories that are the real engines behind our lives, understand them, and see how they make us feel and act. If the story lines up with a good self-compassionate assessment of who we really are, we can see how it strengthens our sense of ourselves, reduces anxiety, and empowers us to walk into our lives in a good way. If it doesn’t support us, we can begin the search for better, more fulfilling stories.

If we remain unconscious of our stories, they retain a power over our lives that can be shocking in its effects. Often, the really powerful stories in our lives start to appear before we’re old enough to consciously make choices. These stories can give us extremely powerful messages about who we are, and what we can expect for our lives.

Example. C. is the daughter of parents of humble backgrounds who immigrated to Canada slightly before she was born. Her parents made enormous sacrifices for their children, and lived lives that were almost totally oriented to “the kids’ future”. On some level C. felt an enormous pressure to succeed. She worked furiously, and excelled at academics, got a full scholarship to university, attended a fine U.S. medical school, and went on to become a well respected orthopedic surgeon. At 46 years of age, she asks “Is any of this really what I wanted? Who am I, anyway?”

“What’s my life story?” is a hugely important question, and the answer to it can make all the difference in the level of fulfillment and self-acceptance I find in my life.

In the second part of this post, “Getting to the Real Story”, we’ll look at some of the important ways in which we can start to get nearer to our real story, and further our journey towards wholeness.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

PHOTOS:

Some rights reserved by Mills Baker (Creative Commons Licence)

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