Tuesday, November 20, 2012

In the Deep, Dark Cold of Winter Comes the Warmth of Story

Now is the time of year to deepen your roots in preparation for a greater blossoming. One way to do that is through discovering your own myth -- your deepest and truest story, the one that holds your passion and purpose in life.

Here's an easy story exercise to help you find your myth. It's taken from Tristine Rainer's book, Your Life as Story: Discovering the "New Autobiography" and Writing Memoir as Literature, (New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 1997). I often use it to help my private clients get a big-picture story sense of their life and the shape of our work together. This tale can be drawn, danced, sung, and acted out. But the essence, in my experience, is writing it first.

Write a fairy tale about yourself in 3 sentences or short paragraphs, without too much thought, in 10 minutes or less.

In its simplest form, a fairy tale has 3 parts -- crisis, struggle, and transformation:

  1. Something happens that causes a problem for a person or a group.
  2. They struggle to find a solution.
  3. They experience a transformation and have a realization.
Try it. Pick a situation or event from the past or that is happening in the present. Put it through this very simple story process:

'Once upon a time, there was a...(little girl, woman, boy, man, family, team, village, etc.)'

  1. the problem or crisis;
  2. your struggle to resolve it - the obstacles you faced, what you did, the outcome or continuing dilemma (this puts the attention on you rather than the problem) ;
  3. how you changed and what you learned (or how you could change and what the experience might teach you).
You have here the bones of a personal story that can be fleshed out over weeks or months. This is at least part of your personal myth and it can help you understand in a deeper way who you are, what has shaped you, and where you're going. The point is, and I hope you see from this quick exercise, that you have a story. Story gives structure and meaning to difficult experience. Your story imagination is instinctive, dynamic, and full of unseen possibilities.


Coming in 2013: my book


For people faced with rebuilding life after traumatic experience, healers, writers and other artists, clinicians, coaches, and anyone interested in applying the power of the narrative imagination to their life.

When someone undertakes a great work -- whether it is getting well, rebuilding a life after it's been shattered by loss, finding meaning and purpose in life, or starting a creative project -- they step out on a hero's journey that mirrors the first great heroic journey in life: the developmental stages through childhood to adulthood. In story, these stages are thresholds expressed as chapters, scenes, and vignettes. Creative struggle in adulthood can bring to light buried thresholds and parts of the self that need attention and nourishment for one to become whole.

The hero's journey -- that ancient narrative of resilience and transformation that tells of disaster, quest, victory, and wise return -- can be found in every great story, transformational experience, and meaningful life. It tells of the universal struggle to navigate and grow through crisis and shows us how to transform personal and collective misfortune into deep and necessary change. Using stories and poetry from the exuberant mosaic of the world's written and oral traditions, this unique book on therapeutic writing will help you to apply the inspiring hero's/heroine's journey paradigm to any difficult life passage.

Working in a metaphorical, right-brain developmental model such as the archetypal hero's journey provides safe access to places in the unconscious that lie beyond the limits of rational exploration, memory, and ordinary language. In the "Once upon a time" realm of myth, crisis or challenge opens a path to the grail that all people seek: peace of heart and mind and full release of the life force into your life.


In my private practice I work with adults coping with past trauma, loss, life transition, and relationship/work issues. My clients also include people who want to explore their creativity or need support for a creative project. 

In addition, I am now offering my story consulting services to solopreneurs, companies, and organizations that want to develop a powerful professional narrative. To explore working with me in person, by phone or by Skype, write:
julietbrucephd@gmail.com to schedule a free phone consultation -- no strings attached.

Client Comments:

"Life changing. Affirming, took me to the next level from where I was to where I want to be in life. I gained many new insights into myself, relationships, and place in the world. Deep inner change at my core."

"The framework of the heroine's journey is very empowering. To see my life as an epic adventure allows for all the catastrophes and losses to be incorporated, to be seen as part of the celebration of life, rather than shameful episodes that need to be covered up as quickly as possible."

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