childhood, health, life, parenting, psychology, spirituality, story, writing

How Stories Can Facilitate Psychological Health

greece13Many years ago, when I’d been working as a therapist for several years,  I came upon an ancient Greek tradition where people suffering from an illness (whether physical or mental) went to healing caves for a cure.  At the site there were caves where the patient slept and then healers aided their patients in interpreting their dreams.  A healing dream is a story that speaks in the language of symbol to directly impact the conscious mind. The key to the cure is that it is the unconscious that heals.

The greater part of my work with clients was working with their dreams, so this ancient process had great appeal for me.  Excited to learn more, I literally went in search of the places where this had occurred and found the best example on Crete where the Minoans had once lived from 4000 to 1500 BC.

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Thus began my 20 year fascination with a culture that appeared to have been amazingly balanced between the masculine and feminine principles.  The Minoans are considered matriarchal but my research has shown me otherwise.  Most scientists who’ve come across them have automatically classed them matriarchal because most cultures in that time period were.  They hadn’t the vision to realize that everything in their art spoke to a highly developed consciousness.  It was not one-sided.

once heard that if we haven’t seen something before, we can’t see it at all.  An example given was that when the first ships arrived on the east coast of the United States from Europe, the indigenous population couldn’t see the ships; they were invisible to them.  It was the shaman who revealed these odd new forms to the people, which he could do since he traveled in the unconscious on a regular basis.

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I knew by then that simply telling someone something goes in one ear and out the other; it has no real impact on the psyche, but stories do. Many great and small teachers over the years, realizing the powerful impact for change in parables, myths, fairytales and stories of all kinds, have used these tools to create a change in the point of view of the listener.  There is no erase button in the psyche but there is an add button.

Keeping in mind that a story is a waking dream, I set out to tell the story of how a young girl was healed by her encounter with this culture that was based on feminine values; love, nurturance, connection, play, art, and beauty.  I created a situation where a young person with a ‘bad’ mother was renewed and given hope for her life through her exposure to the ‘good’ mother.  Her mother’s dark world was all she’d known, now she could see what had previously been invisible.

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As a healer my job is to show people what they haven’t seen before.  My favorite method for doing that is to tell them stories.

My novels, Echo the Ancients, and The Jaguar’s House, A Mayan Tale, were written with this in mind,.

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childhood, health, life, psychology, spirituality, story, writing

Mothers Milk is Mother’s World.

The first truths are taught to us by our mothers. 

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They are the truths that support all others; the people I see, the earth at my feet, the plants and trees around me, the sky above, are neutral until given meaning, and the original meaning comes from her.  Our mother gives us access to the world.  Her beliefs are transferred to us like the formation of our first cells in her womb. We drink the milk from her breast and ingest her emotions, how she sees the world, and how she sees us.

This process happens before we have the consciousness to know that it’s happening.  We are utterly dependent on this information to understand our world. We must have it just as we must have her milk.  And then, worse yet, we forget.  It is staggering how important this is.  No wonder, we, both men and women, are both enraptured and frightened of the feminine.  She does, in fact, have the greatest power.  As the Indian Vedas say, She is the creator and the destroyer.

In the beginning, we see the world through our mother’s eyes not ours.

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If we’re lucky enough to have a ‘good’ mother, she will also teach us to believe in ourselves; to find our own answers that may be different than hers; to constantly seek our own experience and meaning.  In other words, she will point us back to ourselves, freeing us from the limitations of her mind and into the vastness of our own; she will nurture the creation of our own selves.

If we’re not so lucky and have a ‘bad’ mother  (by bad I’m referring to a person whose limitations prevent them from nurturing our individuality) All of the above will happen, however, she will not point us back to ourselves.  Instead of nurturing our unique world view, she will destroy it, insisting that hers is the correct way to see.

Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story.  Our personal mother is not the only feminine force in the universe.  As important as she is to our early life, many people with ‘bad’ mothers naturally turn toward Mother Nature.

A story I’ve heard over and over again from clients with difficult early home lives, is that they found such solace in nature; trees, birds, insects, animals, rivers, all became their friends where they would go to feel some aspect of nurturance.  Because nature is not personal their needs for self awareness could not be satisfied, but they did feel momentarily better.

One of my earliest memories serves as an example: DSC_0142

I was five and had been following the creek down the side of the mountain, jumping from rock to rock in and out of quaking aspen that bent in close and, somewhere, sometime unbeknownst to me, led away from the cabin where I was staying with my mother, father and little brother.  It led to a morning full of meadow.

I remembered the names of Columbine and Indian Paintbrush that I found there, but they were only a few among a myriad of other, as yet, unnamed mountain flowers and grasses that smelled both sour and sweet.  It was beautiful beyond imagining.  I thought that the many drops of lingering dew captured in the plants had been left by the stars the night before.

I was entrance, but also, realized I was lost.  Suddenly I saw a fawn and its mother.  I held my breath. The grasses came above the fawn’s legs as she pranced behind her mother.  She didn’t know yet that her mother’s power was not hers.  She owned it all.  More than anything, I wanted to follow them across that wide expanse of wet wild wonder; that green and purple field of love, where snaking creek waters gurgled, murmuring soft phrases of reassurance.

As the doe ran ahead, the fawn followed, a delighted shadow yet to be solid in her own right.  When the mother stopped and turned her head to her child, I saw her eyes; brown orbs of everything.  I got up from where I’d collapsed on a piece of granite and ran toward them, but before I could catch up, the doe bounded through the barrier of trees, and her fawn, stopping a moment to feel me behind, leapt also.

At the spot where they’d disappeared, I found the creek.  I knew if I followed the creek, I’d find our cabin.  They’d showed me how to get back.  I never told my parents about the meadow; I already knew they would take it from me.

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The memory of that experience was so important to me as a child, I thought about it hundreds of times and would remember the details as clearly as I was able.   Most summers our family returned to this place in the High Sierra’s of California.  The first thing I would do when we arrived was to go in search of my lost place.  I never found it again.  As I grew older, I doubted that it had ever happened.  I had taken on my mother’s dark view of life so fully by then that I called it a silly dream and stopped looking.  However, though I didn’t actively look for it as I once had, I was always on the lookout for it.

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inspiration, life, philosophy, psychology, spirituality, story, writing

4 Reasons People Love Stories.

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One reason is that we are each a living story and the meaning of our life is based upon that story.  As children just forming a sense of self and the world, stories are extremely important.  At that time the psyche is still connected to the unconscious; the place from which all stories originate, and the physical world is not more important than the imagined one.  Stories validate our experience and give us a way to understand that the unseen world has its value.   We love to hear about the life of each creature we’re currently enchanted with; we imagine the life of an ant or a horse; we want to hear about the life of our parents and all those we meet; we want stories of adventure and life lived differently than ours.  These form an essential identity.

It’s all preparation for the creation of our own story and the eventual reinventing of the self.  As adults we’re drawn to stories that our outside of our own experience; again, it is a striving for a larger meaning.  If we’re lucky, and our ego’s are intact and healthy, we will keep using stories to expand our sense of self to include more and more possibility; our identity grows and changes.

Through a story we may find an attribute of a person that we want to emulate.  Children and teenagers do it all the time.  When my daughter was 3 she loved the stories of cats and went through a period of “being” a cat.  What teenager doesn’t have an idol, often going through several, who they’re emulating? The reason that person has become important to them is because they see something in their story that they want for themselves.

A story, no matter how simple or complex, is a template for the use of the psyche to grow and become all that it wishes to be.

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Another reason is that as social beings we’re interested in the experience of the world around us; people, animals, bugs, you name it, we want to understand it. By hearing the experience of an “other” we can empathize, we can find compassion for their particular challenges which forms a bond between us.  Stories of other times, other cultures, other life conditions, further our connection to the larger world making us better humans through the appreciation that life is much much larger than our one unique story.

We’re the only one, but we’re not the only one that’s the only one!!

Another reason is to nurture and grow our imagination.  

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When traveling in the Yucatan, I was so moved by the magic of the environment that my imagination was enthralled and I created a series of photographic images based on what I imagined in that place.  It was pure fun, so entertainment is another important reason for stories in our lives.

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