I’d like to invite you next to consider whether your Life Story might actually be playing itself out according to more than one Genre. This week I have introduced you to three story types or genres that Life Stories represent: Comic Epic-Adventure, Tragic Epic-Adventure, and Episodic. You can determine which of these patterns your overall conception of your Life Story weaves by reviewing the sequence of Life Chapters you can identify by naming the event frames that have transpired between the critical Turning Points of your life’s Adventure (see the last two week’s tools in the right panel about identifying and naming your own Life Chapters).
Now then, might the same person’s Life Story be simultaneously Comic, Tragic and/or Episodic all at the same time? This is a profound question, for which I can say the answer is, Yes. There are many layers to a Lifetime, after all.
One way by which a person’s Life Story might be of multiple genres over time is simply in the sense that the Life Chapter you are in right Now—which I have called your Threshold vantage point—influences how you reconstruct your story. This is paradoxical, of course. If in the process of reflecting back about your Life you realize you stand in the Now at a relatively calm and aware precipice, then you are likely to name the Life Chapters you identify between your pivotal Turning Points in terms of a Comic Epic Adventure that has brought you to this Vantage Point of being a Threshold Dweller. On the other hand, if you are currently in the throes of a Dark Night situation, you might be more likely to reconstruct how dire events and repeating traumas have delivered you into this tragic Mess. (Please allow just for the moment my slightly droll attitude here, which cannot do justice to the real turmoil you might be experiencing.) Furthermore, if you find yourself currently on a sort of Lark of an adventure, relatively carefree and open to unexpected twists and turns in the Road before you, then perhaps you are more likely to reconstruct your Life Story as an Episodic, picaresque adventure.
There is a more profound way, though, by which your Life Story might be transpiring according to multiple genres–and multiple story threads!– at the same time. This involves what Carl G. Jung or James Hillman or Carolyn Myss would describe in terms of Depth, or Archetypal, Psychology. If you accept–and not everyone will–that we are each of us inherently “multiple”, all the time, because our personal unconscious domain houses a cast of archetypal character images or modes that exist under the surface of our conscious awareness yet they influence our perceptions and attitudes through dreams or ‘nudges’/ ‘impulses’, then you might be further willing to entertain the possibility that these unconscious aspects of Self may actually be construing THEIR Life Stories distinctly from your own conscious Life Story viewpoint. Perhaps you have an Inner “Wanderer/ Idealist” archetype sub-self in you. Then this figure might construe the life s/he shares with you as an Episodic Adventure, even while you may consciously be more goal directed on a Comic Epic Quest. Or maybe a ‘part’ of you that was squelched from early childhood trauma is in a Tragic mode and this colors all your experiences with a tinge of skepticism or sadness, even though for the most part you are consciously feeling happy and successful.
I find that for Life Mapping, referring to Archetypes is very important and potentially very helpful and illuminating, so that in Life Paths I will be introducing a fresh new approach to working with some of your Archetypal “cast and crew”. I also realize that Archetypal Psychology is not everyone’s cup of tea, outright at least. So in Life Paths I am also offering an alternative to thinking in terms of or making contact with your ‘depth’ archetypal impulses directly; you will be able to opt for simply reflecting upon your LIFE THEME values and qualities, instead.
For those willing to ‘sink’ to such depths (naturally), try reviewing the three Genres: Comic Epic Adventure; Tragic Epic Adventure; Episodic or Picaresque. Can you identify with MORE THAN ONE of these story types as having been or currently active in your life? I invite you to actively contemplate, talk about, or write/ journal about these multiple dimensions of your life.
A third way to go about exploring your own Life Story Genre multiplicity is by simply reviewing one Life Chapter at a time. Sometimes each chapter is a Story in itself, and different Life Chapters may have taken their own forms as one of the three Genres we are exploring this week. Maybe your earliest Life Chapter as a Child was Episodic but your middle years were/are more focused as a Comic Epic Adventure. Maybe one of your chapters was distinctively Tragic but you survived and discovered a pathway to a more positive storyline. (If so was there a meaningful transition between these?)
So what’s the point of all this complicating what seemed pretty simple at the start of the week? As humans we are Meaning Bearers and Meaning Creators. That is, our lives “Make Sense” because of our sense-making capabilities. If we are not entirely happy with the Story we construe ourselves to be living out right now, we can “switch horses midstream”, if we choose to. We can look ahead to creating and re-modeling the Story as we choose! We are not locked into any storyline beyond our own control.
Have you seen the Will Ferrell/ Emma Thompson/ Dustin Hoffman film, “Stranger Than Fiction”? I highly recommend it. A man (Ferrell) living out a fairly dull, overly routinized Life Story as an IRS agent comes to the awareness that he is actually a character in a famous writer’s story! The author (Thompson) always kills off her characters in the end. So an English professor (Hoffman) asks the man to try to determine whether he is the character in a Comedy or a Tragedy. I won’t tell you the ending but suffice to say, there is a definite turnabout needed!
I Welcome YOUR Comments, Insights and Stories as you reflect upon or entertain these ideas in relation to your own Life Adventure!