Tuesday, November 18, 2014


We usually think of the beginning of a story as an external misfortune that creates a crisis in the life of a character. Often, though, stories are set into motion by a internal command from within the character. You can see this clearly in your own life and the lives of people you know. Sometimes we get "saturated" with the way things are in our lives and we leap off the cliff into the unknown, says story guru Robert McKee. That's the beginning of a new story -- or in story language, the "inciting incident."

Can you think of a time in your life when you initiated something that disrupted your life, and even some of your basic assumptions about yourself? Or are you thinking about it? That choice sets you out on a ...hero's journey, when you become your own master and your life rises to the level of adventure.

Where were you when this particular story began? Where are you now? How have you changed? What have you learned?

Start writing!



Reinforcing the Healthy Inner Lives of Youth in a Violent World

Sunday, December 7
1 - 3:30
Creative Righting Center
526 W. 26th St., #309
This training is free. A suggested donation of $18 to the center would be much appreciated.

Space is limited and registration is required. Please RSVP to Dr. Sherry Reiter, sherryreiter@yahoo.com and me, julietbrucephd@gmail.com.I learned through a decade of working in prisons and alternative-to-incarceration programs that the path to violence and the path to creative living are both similar in their progression and directly opposite in their results. Teachers, therapists, coaches, clergy and parental figures can interrupt a life seemingly destined for violence by offering another template -- healing story applied to life.

Please feel free to write me with questions about content and to forward this announcement to others who night be interested.


Depression and anxiety are the twin maladies of our time. The Centers for Disease Control predict that by 2020, over 80% of women will have experienced depression. Beneath the roots of depression and anxiety in our personal lives, many depth psychologists believe these miseries are a reflection of the violence and destruction taking place throughout our world, including to our earth itself. Literally, as we heal ourselves, we heal a small bit of the world.

In my practice, I help my clients follow an ancient path through this condition. Traditional cultures understood depression and other non-ordinary mental experiences as states of emergence rather than as disorders.

This workshop uses the rich metaphors, visual images, and environments of a famous Russian folk tale to take a fresh and optimistic approach to depression. 

(NOTE: this approach is not intended to replace traditional talk therapy. Rather, it is intended to support and enrich common therapeutic modalities.)

"Thank you for your wonderful presentation. Looking at depression through a story lens was useful. Definitely useful." -- from The Psychotherapy and Spirituality Institute, presented on May 8, 2014.


Interested in booking this workshop for your agency? Contact me at julietbrucephd@gmail.com.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

When Life Unravels, There Comes a Time to Pick Up the Threads

Weaving and Reweaving the Story of Creation

Our deepest emotional need, no matter what our circumstances, is to feel seen and heard, to have our experience witnessed by others and to see and hear theirs—to become visible to each other. This is how we step out of the tight web of circumstances life and into the infinite web of existence. This is how we nourish resilience.

All the difficulty has in reality been a preparation for this breakthrough truth: All is well. Something must die so that something can live.

We can learn from the natural world that change is inevitable; it is difficult like birth; miracles and epiphanies come in the valley of the shadow, not in the meadows. Just when all seems lost, breakthrough happens. Something new comes forth.

As we share our stories, we tell a new story into being. And just as our ancestors have for eons, we can learn from the natural world how to tell creation stories.

Several Native American tribes have as their creation myth the vision of a woman as the creator of the world. According to the myth, Spider Woman began her many creations by spinning and singing, first creating the universe in four directions, then the sun, moon, and stars, which immediately banished darkness from the world. And finally she created all living beings, binding them to her with threads. She is always spinning, always creating, always pulling in the wayward thread to make a thrilling new pattern.[1]

Many modern scientists now embrace the ancient wisdom that everything in existence is interconnected. One especially beautiful retelling of this story can be found in philosopher and environmental activist David Abrams’ book The Spell of the Sensuous.            Taking shelter from a storm deep within a Bali rain forest, he became conscious of the presence of another being in that encapsulated space between safety and the pelting rain: a spider spinning a delicate web across the cave opening. Slowly and methodically, it spun toward the center, radiated out from the center, climbed back up the silken thread to spin another toward the center, radiating out, climbing back. Suddenly, a driving wind blew the web apart. The scientist saw nothing.

Until he saw the spider beginning again.

After some time, he realized that there was another spider, spinning its own web, disconnected from the first, yet intersecting with it. As his eyes became more sensitized to the dark, he saw many spiders, each spinning its own web over the cave opening. “Suddenly I realized,” he writes, “that there were many overlapping webs coming into being…. I sat stunned and mesmerized before this ever-complexifying expanse of living patterns upon patterns, my gaze drawn like a breath into one converging group of lines, then breathed out into open space, then drawn down into another convergence. The curtain of water had become utterly silent—I tried at one point to hear it but could not. My senses were entranced. I had the distinct impression that I was watching the universe being born, galaxy upon galaxy.”

When dawn came and he awoke to a sun-bright new day, he could find no trace of the webs, nor of their weavers. For ever after, he has retained an awe of these creatures as instructors in the intelligence of the non-human universe.[2]

Nature -- a course in miracles. When we tell our story, we merge with a larger, ever-evolving one, spinning a new collective reality into being, engaged in an eternal process of transformation: as Abram writes, “the perpetual emerging of the world from an incipient, indeterminate state into a full, waking reality, from invisibility to visibility, from the secret depths of silence into articulate song and speech.”[3]

Copyright, 2014, Juliet Bruce, Ph.D. (from A Write of Passage, in progress). Use of this material without written permission is prohibited.

[1] Charlotte Kuchinsky, “The Myth of Spiderwoman.” http://voices.yahoo.com/the-native-american-myth-spider-woman-502058.html
[2] David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous, p. 17.
[3] Abram, p. 169.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Understanding Creative People

(Repost of a popular one!)
More than ever before, our world needs people who are alive and inspired, who have new visions, new ideas for implementing them, and new energy. However, as much as corporations, classrooms, and clinical centers say they want to support creativity, they usually end up stifling it.

For one thing, creative people are often misunderstood as undisciplined, or misdiagnosed as having a personality disorder, when in fact they are absolutely healthy within a creative norm, and capable of brilliant work when recognized, nurtured, and supported in developing their expressive capacities.

In Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, creativity scholar Mihaly Csikszentmilhalyi developed a generic description of the creative personality. It gives teachers, therapists, coaches, managers, and co-workers an expanded framework for working with people driven by internal passions, visions, and values.

Csikszentmilhalyi wrote, “If there is one word that makes creative people different from others, it is the word complexity. Instead of being an individual, they are a multitude. Like the color white that includes all colors, they tend to bring together the entire range of human possibilities within themselves. Creativity allows for paradox, light, shadow, inconsistency, even chaos –and creative people experience both extremes with equal intensity.”


1. A great deal of physical energy alternating with a great need for quiet and rest.
2. Highly sexual, yet often celibate, especially when working.
3. Both extravagant and spartan.
4. Smart and naïve at the same time. A mix of wisdom and childishness. Emotional immaturity along with the deepest insights.
5. Convergent (rational, left brain, sound judgment) and divergent (intuitive, right brain, visionary) thinking. Divergence is the ability to generate a great quantity of ideas, to switch from one perspective to another, and to pick unusual associations of ideas. Convergence involves evaluation and choice. Creative people have the capacity to think both ways.
6. Both extroverted and introverted, needing people and solitude equally.
7. Humble and proud, both painfully self-doubting and wildly self-confident.
8. May defy gender stereotypes, and are likely to have not only the strengths of their own gender but those of the other as well. A kind of psychic androgyny.
9. Can be rebellious and independent on one hand, and traditional and conservative on the other.
10. A natural openness and sensitivity that often exposes them to extreme suffering and pain, yet also to a great deal of enjoyment. Despair alternates with bliss, despair when they aren’t working, and bliss when they are.

The most important quality among creative people, says Csikszentmilhalyi, is the ability to enjoy the process of creation for its own sake.

Ask yourself how you can create classrooms, workplaces, families, and healing environments that value and support the gifts that the creative people you know have to offer.


Maya Angelou: "There's no greater agony than carrying around an untold story inside yourself."

I maintain a private boutique practice in New York City and a distance one by phone/Skype. I serve conscious, creative change-makers who are struggling with the realities of change in their own life. For more information about working privately with me or to set up a free exploratory call, please contact me through my web site: www.julietbruce.com.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Imagining Iago: The Transforming Power of Metaphor

How an Actor Turned Performance Anxiety into a Brilliant Performance through the Use of Metaphor

(repost of a popular one from last year)

 The actor Liev Schreiber received universally positive  reviews for his portrayal of the evil trickster Iago in the NY Public Theatre’s 2001 production of Othello.

"...audiences couldn't ask for a more captivating creator of chaos than the Iago of Liev Schreiber…."

"...awful and fascinating...thanks to the lucid complexity of Schreiber's performance, disturbingly real."

"...the ability to animate or embody an idea, as opposed to emblemizing it…"

"I found myself thinking, 'This guy would fool me, too.'"

The following year, Schreiber described how he created his Iago in a PBS "Great Performances" documentary. At first he found it nearly impossible to fully engage with the other actors. No matter how much direction he received, he kept finding himself circling the scene rather than dominating it from center stage, as the role is usually played. The root of this problem, Schreiber discovered, was his anxiety that he wouldn’t be able to remember all of his lines. (Iago has more lines than any other character in all of Shakespeare’s plays.)

Rather than work to “fix” or remove his anxiety, he and the director Keith David began to play with it – especially its physical manifestation of circling the scene. Together, they looked for metaphors that would combine Schreiber’s circling behavior with that of a character intent on destruction.

They came up with the image of a shark, a predator by nature that circles a group of prey until it senses vulnerability, and then strikes. Schreiber worked to embody the gliding, purposeful, predatory nature of a shark into his Iago. In the process, he lost his fear and was able to not only remember the lines, but to endow Iago with a depth and complexity uniquely his own.

He changed the story.

How to Harness the Power of Metaphor for Yourself

“Every dragon is a prince or princess yearning to be kissed,” wrote Rilke. Is there a quality, emotion, habit in you that appears to be sabotaging your best efforts? Instead of fighting it and getting caught up in a losing battle to control, defeat, or fix it, do the opposite: work with it. Externalize it by turning it into a metaphor. Let it tell you its story through creative expression.

Ask yourself: What animal, god, demon, landscape, or weather expresses this emotion or physical experience? What would it feel like to let it inhabit your body, your voice, your words and intent?

Fully and safely express it through drawing it,  having an imaginary dialogue with it, expressing it in movement or sound. Allow it to release its unique energy into whatever it is blocking. Watch this vulnerability transform into something brilliant.

Change your story by fully encompassing, exploring, and embodying its depths.