The stories you read and the stories you live are in relationship to each other.
You may be aware that the stories we believe about ourselves affect what we think is possible for us!
If you’ve followed me long, you’ll know I’m a life-long intuitive with strong connections to the realms of energy, and from an early point in my life I could see how these aspects (angels, spirit guides, etc.) impact our reality.
I see the realm of story and archetype as exceptionally powerful.
For myself personally, I’ve observed:
When I’ve identified with a powerful archetypal story, as I follow along with the heroines journey the wins and wisdom she experiences also become mine–I get a peek at what it means to navigate her challenges, and come away feeling stronger and more resilient.
But when I read a story where a strong female lead–who I identify with–is thwarted, disgraced without redemption, or confronted with a challenge without hope, or over gives to the point of death or depletion, something in my nature feels a little defeated as well.
Once, when I was a teenager, I read a story where the heroine faces a dragon, who makes her very sick. It wasn’t until I read the story again as an adult, with more practiced intuitive eyes, that I saw the energy of the book separate from the gripping story, and noticed . . .
how it came off the page, and made the connection that it was so strong it had interacted with my own energy as a teen as well–rolling off the page and making me, as a teenager, feel queasy and feeling ill. I vividly recalled this. It also encouraged my developing notion, as a teen girl, that illness was noble and over giving holy.
So what do I do with my insight into how stories shape me?
For one thing, I started paying more attention to cultivating my own energy boundaries around what I would let in from the stories I read.
For another thing, I started being more choosy about what I watched and read–and became more interested in both reading commentaries (essays and articles others write about books and movies) and thinking about what I was consuming. Having a degree in English has helped me with this, because I was trained to read a book or an article and think about not just what the story or the message was, but also look at what other messages might be coming through–in my school, we were taught to give books different kinds of critical readings. For example, a “feminist” reading in which we studied how the story factors gave a commentary on women in Western culture, and other kinds of readings as well.
I wrote my senior paper on Toni Morrison, and her use of liminal space in her writing. Liminal space is the place where magic happens, where transformation occurs. My area of interest was the critical reading of what’s happening in the liminal space of a story. (Later I expanded this exploration to look at how the relationship between the reader and the story can affect the reader.)
When we connect with and listen to a story, the storytelling space itself is a place of liminal space. It’s a place we can explore ideas about who we are. We often absorb things from it as well. To the extent we can observe this in ourselves, we can pay attention to what we are taking away from a story or story experience, and we can also notice (though it may take a bit of training or self-permission to bring it to a useful level) whether that story is helping us feel more inspired, whole, and centered, or less so.
To some extent, all story tellers have the potential to operate in a liminal reality, where they shape the worlds we live in.
But here’s the thing:
There are many diverse voices telling stories today, and that is a positive thing.
But many of the story themes and threads that govern our culture continue. They are old, and powerful, and strong. They are buried under layers of archetypes and themes in which women have been asked to give up their power. As we continue to read these stories and repeat them in our lives and culture, it becomes a cycle of repetition.
This can reinforce some common feminine themes (such as: It’s noble for women to give their power away, feminine sacrifice is noble, feminine poverty is holy).
Have you noticed how, in the Bible, the poor widow who gives up her last piece of money is celebrated as virtuous, but the man who is a good steward is given even more to be a steward over?
Isn’t that an interesting difference in gender roles?
And when women run into this kind of story over and over again, in their circles, in the broader culture, and in the lived stories their friends move through and re-tell (for example, “I spent 20 hours a week last month volunteering!” said while she nearly drops to the floor from exhaustion–but the virtue of her standing based in the “woman-who-gives-all” story is getting bolstered here–while we as her friends are happy for her happiness but also getting somewhat concerned about her health and hope she will give herself a good meal and a nap soon).
The strands of the archetypal stories of centuries whisper through the threads of our culture, affecting the fabric of what is allowed for women, but beyond even that, shaping what we allow for ourselves.
Today I’m sharing a video I’ve made on how our cultural stories about women shape our lives. You can watch the video here: