Carrying On: How Your Life Story Can Be Self-Perpetuating

Water Swirl

A story takes a conventional form, a Genre, which influences how it unfolds.  We have expectations about a Comic Heroic Adventure, for instance: a Hero will survive—even if barely–all challenges and s/he will defeat Evil, both in themselves and in the world. The world will benefit from the Hero’s Adventure while the Hero himself or herself will gain awareness and strengths to live “happily ever after”.


Of course, what really happens “ever after” is a story yet to be told. I like Steven Sondheim’s “Into the Woods”, a play where the first two acts show a convergence of fairy tale heroes meeting their obstacles and ultimately surviving to live ‘happily ever after’; then the third act brings a collective threat—an angry, rampaging Giant—that the same characters must come together collaboratively to defeat if any of them are to survive.


Tragic storylines also have a self-perpetuating form, often unfolding over several cycles or generations before the difficult lessons are learned so that the characters can reach a state of balance and at least put an end to the tragic causal chain of repercussions. Albert Camus envisions Sisyphus—condemned by the gods to roll a rock up a mountain only for it to fall back down over and over again—as ‘happy’, because he has at very least this one thing to do; he has a sort of purposeful focus, a cause.

Carolyn Myss has written about how sometimes people cleave to an illness or to a harmful habit or pattern which might be ultimately self-defeating. Why? She asks people to consider what they are “getting out of” holding onto the situation that it might be healthier for them to release.  Maybe there’s an addictive attachment to drama or traumatic stress (or a chemical imbalance activated by hormonal or stress factors)? In any case there are valuable Life Lessons to be gained perhaps, before one can find healthful solutions and “move on”. (No one can judge this, though; only you can examine your own situation to determine what you really need.) Therapy may a good way to address these sorts of issues; it allows you to “reveal yourself to yourself” over time with an expert Listener.

Graffiti wall (sea theme)

James Hillman, an archetypal psychologist whose ideas I draw upon in Life Paths, emphasized in his book Healing Fiction that therapy is largely about a person telling and then eventually being able to “re-tell” their Story. Hillman recognized precisely the same three genres of Life Stories that I have observed in Life Maps, so I was excited to find reference to that in his work after I had arrived at this observation independently.

So, is your Life Story primarily a Comic Epic Adventure? What Quest are you seeking to fulfill? What tools and Guides do you have available to help you fulfill your Mission?

If your Story is primarily Episodic, does that mean you would rather not plan for the Future but you might prefer wait to see what is “around the corner” when you get there? How is that working for you in relation to establishing or planning for your long-term goals?


Or, would you honestly characterize your Story to date as mainly a Tragedy? This is as valuable and significant a story pattern as any other.

I sometimes think the Universe (or, Spirit) provides “set-ups”: situations that require us to experience what we can ultimately most benefit from—but that may not feel like gifts so much until ultimately we are able to work through the hardest phases of the ordeals involved. It takes much strength, and patience, to endure the ‘dark nights of the Soul’.  I have no great words of advice or comfort here but I simply ask if there has ever been a time/event when you have successfully resolved a traumatic situation or found light in the midst of the dark tunnel? Can you recall those small successes and contemplate those? What helped you then? Maybe you can find in those past “mini-success stories” a tool or strategy that might help change the story now or in the future. Please, don’t give up! There is always more of a story to come, with potentially positive twists or turns you may not be expecting.


From Ptero, “The Story So Far” (same day):

Time marks us with habits, memories and limitations through which a distinct version of a story is imagined as fact and takes up residence in our hearts. Although the whole truth of our selves and others can never be wholly seen, we weave a continuous story through the assemblage of historical facts. Digital bits plucked out of an analog background, although never to be grasped fully, can be intuited.

“Healing begins when we move out of the audience and onto the stage of the psyche, become characters in a fiction (even the godlike voice of Truth, a fiction), and as the drama intensifies, the catharsis occurs; we are purged from attachments to literal destinies, find freedom in playing parts, partial, dismembered, Dionysian, never being whole but participating in the whole that is a play, remembered by it as actor of it. And the task set by the play and its god is to play a part with craft, sensitively.” (Hillman, Healing Fiction, as reblogged from Ptero in synchronicity!)


Friday I will explore the idea that the same person might have two or all three of these Life Story Genres active in their lives at the same time—either in different Life Chapters or from the perspective of different ‘archetypal’ aspects of Self.


I am always interested in hearing your Comments, insights or stories you might choose to share! This is—I intend and do hope dearly—a Safe Space!

“You See Yourself in Others”–Family-Based Archetypal Projections


Archetypal psychology á la Carl G. Jung or James Hillman or Carolyn Myss—or via a unique Life Mapping approach I will be introducing you to in Life Paths—can help you to become more aware of how easy it can be to project aspects of your own unconscious personality or “Psyche” orientations onto, or into, others.  This way others may serve as mirrors for you of traits or beliefs you may not be ready to own about yourself. It’s like my father used to tell me often, “You see yourself in others”.  We do this with both positive and negatively perceived traits or orientations; it is a psychologically ‘safe’ way to assess traits we may be not ready to see as part of our own psychic makeup.


In prior weeks we have explored archetypal  “ensemble casts” of characters as represented in fiction, such as in the Wizard of Oz, one of my favorite examples. Discussing TV, we realized that several successful situational comedies such as M.A.S.H. or Gilligan’s Island use ensemble casts to represent various character aspects of a basic Self character (e.g. Dorothy, Captain Hawkeye Pierce, or the marooned Gilligan). Now I’d like to invite you to do the same with regard to members of your own Family. This might be your family of origin, or your immediate family you live with, or both, and it could as easily be seen in your family of friends or coworkers that you associate with on a regular basis.

What might your perceptions of specific family or significant relationship Alters reveal about Yourself?


Here’s an easy way to start applying this understanding from archetypal psychology to your universe—i.e., your own Ensemble Archetypal Cast of relations. Simply compose a list of positive and negative (and/or neutral, if you like) character traits that you associate with those in your family or in a close, family-like social group.

What character traits, for instance, do you associate with your Father? If that has shifted over time, you can represent his traits accordingly. What strengths or weaknesses do you see in yourself that you can trace to being to some degree a result of your relationship with your father?

Now try applying those same questions to your full set of close family relations. Especially if you recognize in yourself a particularly strong ‘attachment’ to some perception you hold about a family member, describe the traits you are responding to as carefully as you can. Have you perhaps avoided expressing some character traits in your own life as a reaction to seeing those as ‘negative traits’ expressed by someone close to you? What values do you relate to your aversion to such attitudes or behaviors?

On the other hand, what noble or heightened pedestals might you have constructed for some persons; pedestals you feel you fall quite short of yourself. Why?

Now then, what if all of these character strengths and weaknesses you see in your family Alters are actually all parts of your own Total Self System (as well as being traits you associate with these others)?

Gold people family icons

Try it out. I will, too…

Here’s a sample subset of a chart I might create for my own archetypal “family projections” exploration:

       Negatively perceived traits  Positively perceived traits

Dad  quick, harsh temper       excellent gaming strategist

Mom emotional over-sensitivity  excellent problem solver


Now then, looking at the negatively valued (to me) traits I’ve identified, what might they reveal about me? I definitely try to distance myself from a “quick, harsh temper” such as I associate with my father from specific memories. Does that mean this is not a trait within me? Quite the opposite. Because I do not want to own this trait, I have sometimes overcompensated in a disagreement with a relationship partner by “going away”–either physically or emotionally–when challenged by what may seem like frustrating or objectionable behavior or attitudes. Rather than erupt–as I construct my father might–I go away; or alternately, I might trigger this very response I eschew in myself, in my alter. Then though, when a situation remains tense and I finally DO express an angry temper, I might act out too much–in a brief but relatively uncontrollled outburst. Later I might apologize, or ‘go away’.

heart made of many different heart symbols

The more we can recognize “ourselves in others”, the better!  An approach I use now when I recognize that I might be projecting qualities I don’t wish to own into others, is called an Archetype Dialogue, a form of active imagination, as Jung would call it. You can journal a dialogue (or imagine one) precisely with that ‘character’ in yourself that you think you have seen in someone else. Write out or sustain an imagined conversation with this part of yourself. What is he or she upset about or fearful of or uncomfortable around? Listen to what this part of YOU has to say. You might be surprised to find some of the pent up negative energy dissolves as you ALLOW this vital part of yourself to have a voice.

I invite your insights and stories! Go lightly with this one; be Gentle with YOU! (and You, and you too…….); LOL