What’s My Life Story? PART 2: Getting to the Real 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:
- 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.
- 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 /a-midlife-transition can be of tremendous support as you seek out the true story of you.