We Are Homo Narrativus!

Book, Landscape, Nature, Wind, Weather

As a linguistic anthropologist I suggest we could call the human species Homo Narrativus.  We are Storytellers! What else? Not only do we tell the myths and legends of our peoples to teach our cultural values and heroic ideals to the next generations; we also cast and recall our personal life experiences in narrative form.  

Creation stories. mythology, fiction, television and movie dramas, and history itself harbor narratives we tell about our collective past.  As individuals, we each have our own Life Story, complete with Life Chapters, Themes, and our own internal ensemble cast of unconscious archetypal characters as well as our external dramatis personae of social relationships, that altogether comprise our ever-unfolding personal story from which we gather experience and learn and share meaningful lessons.

People, Ice, Snow, Exploration, One, Man

My interview research about how people conceptualize life events (Your Life Path, 2018: Skyhorse Publishers) revealed three primary genres of Life Story narratives: Epic Adventure (either comic or tragic), Cyclic, or Seamless.  Which is yours?  Epic adventurers tell stories of their heroic adventures (Departures, Fulfillment, and if ‘comic’, heroic Returns) cast in terms Joseph Campbell called the Soul’s High Adventure.   Some prefer to think of their life as organized by cycles: 7-year, 10-year decades, or 12-years or more; the ending of one cycle opening to the beginning of the next, bringing flexibility and fresh opportunities.  Still others would rather live their lives as picaresque adventures, welcoming randomity and enjoying life’s little surprises, ready to navigate crossroads as they arise and more focused on the journey than any destination points. 

Journey, Walk, Steps, Street
Seasons Of The Year, Year, Tree, Nature
Chain, Chain Link, Connection, Related

Images are from pixabay.com

The Principle of Better Endings, then, is a narrative device within our creative Homo Narrativus survival toolkit that we can use to reflect on where we are at in our Life Story and how we got here, so we can envision or shape our next steps in the direction of our highest desires.

Better Endings to You!

The Art of Better Rendering: Mining YOUR Story


Humans are inherently Storytellers. We conceptualize  and tell others about significant events and time frames of our lives as narratives. Stories have beginnings, middles and ends; stories have challenges the protagonists face. Stories are comic (with positive resolutions or ‘happy endings’), or they may be tragic or as yet unresolved.


Recognizing our human capacity to spin a good tale, especially about significant or critical events in our lives, carries tremendous potential from the perspective of this blog’s focus on Better Endings. Let’s talk about “better-endering” or perhaps better even, “better rendering!” We can apply the PRINCIPLE of Better Ending envisioning to events from our own life, either in the Past, Present or Future, by SEEING and then TELLING these potentials, weaving them into the story we would tell about our experiences.

For the Past, for example, we can revisit our significant events with an eye to seeing the LESSON we have learned from that experience. Some say that the more we can MAKE SENSE of our past events, the more likely we are to face similar challenges more successfully in the future. Live and Grow becomes a story in itself. I invite you to print this post and  write the Lesson or Strengths you have gained from some past event in the space provided below:


For the Present, we are the central protagonist, on par with mythical heroes or Everypersons in literature. What can YOU DO to bring about a Better Ending to some thread of the Story you are currently living? What are the inherent potentials of the Moment you are presently constructing—whether positive or not? WRITE/ TELL the most positive outcomes of the life you are living NOW. This is important. I encourage you to journal, talk with a loved one, or artistically visualize and represent the positive potentials of your CURRENT Life Chapter. Here is some space to jot some ideas about this story:


For the Future, well, here the ground is So-o-o-o RIPE for you to envision Better Endings. The Future, I believe, is NOT fixed in stone. We can consider the future as a relatively open, endless set of possibilities. Now then, which potential becomes a STATE in some future Present is ultimately up to YOU. Current or lifelong patterns and habits of thought, motivation, and action certainly orient us along a pathway from Present to Future that sometimes SEEMS relatively fixed and immutable.  That is where MINDFULNESS, however YOU can practice this, comes in. One technique I offer in Your Life Path is to envision several “Alternate Future Lifescapes.” Envision a desirable Future Scenario. Write it out or practice active contemplation about it. Then, either on the same day or later, creatively envision an Alternate future scape; several even. What does this desirable imaginative future CARRY that reveals your deepest values, goals and motivations? What CORE VALUES does your desired Future embody? Here is some space to jot some ideas, but I invite you to write this out elsewhere as a descriptive STORY of the life you can be living as you REALIZE this desired future set of conditions and lifestyle:


Now then, PICTURE your Life Story as a WHOLE. What is the MESSAGE of Your Story; your Legacy that you would like to leave?


And finally, how? What are some things or ONE THING you can be doing Now or in the near, realistic, practical future that can help to bring about your most desirable future conditions, your own Better Ending?


Better Rendering means to re-tell your Story focusing on the lessons, messages, and strengths you have gained that you can APPLY to your Present in order to manifest the life of your dreams.


images are from pixabay.com

I welcome your Comments and Stories!





The Multiple Threads of Your Life Story

Baltic Sea on Darss in Germany

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.

Businessman Phone Booth Adventurer Explorer Archaeologist

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!










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!

Transformations and Turning Points


A funny thing happened while blogging this week. Guest Blogs are usually published on Thursdays; I posted Rebekah Shardy’s “Better Endings…or Better Character?”  yesterday, instead of today. Only last night did I even realize I had varied the schedule. It felt right to post Rebekah’s insights yesterday about how character drives endings in fiction, especially after sharing about my own personal decision to finish college instead of moving to NYC to chase a youthful fantasy.

Today then I will share a Wednesday post: a bucket list of possible types of decisions we can reflect on that could have led to ‘alternate’ life conditions.  Let me add one idea here from my Life Paths Mapping practice: Isn’t it interesting how decision points are so often the Life Chapter punctuation marks that become Turning Points in our own Life Stories?  Like a classic myth–or any good fiction–the protagonist, which can be you or me, comes to a crossroads and is faced with a choice: either continue on our established path or make a mindful new decision that can alter the course of our destiny. (Or, third, tweak the established course to be in better accord with our current awareness.)

So, here are some common decision points you may have encountered or might yet in the future. Can you imagine–journal about, write a story about, or visualize, talk about or contemplate–a Better Endings scenario? What is your decision, either now or as re-visioned, based on? How does your own inner character inform and motivate your choices?

  • Who to be best friends with in childhood?
  • Which group to sit with at lunch in the school cafeteria?
  • What extracurricular clubs or activities to take part in during high school?
  • whether to go to college or to what form of work?
  • what major to pursue in college?
  • whether to marry your first ‘true love’?
  • whether to pursue a romantic connection with someone you did not pursue or whose advances you declined?
  • whether to take a risk (you fill in which)?
  • whether to follow a whim?
  • where to live when a clear choice presented itself; whether to move/ change jobs/ travel?
  • what to believe in, and how?

Please feel free to Comment (Leave a Reply in the box below) with additional prompts for flexing our skills at creative re-visioning. Please also submit your stories; the deadline for the weekly topic stories to be shared is Saturday.  And please, I hope you have seen by now that Better Endings is a Safe Space for all. I respect all perspectives and encourage all points of view to be shared as we dialogue and learn from each other. Have fun exploring this weekly topic of Personal Decisions. What might have happened IF/ WHEN/ or COULD if you only IMAGINE?

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