Intentionally choosing my Story gave me the power over the conditions of my own life and even the people in it. It’s paradoxical but true that becoming less protective of myself actually allowed me to experience greater freedom and beauty, which made me more powerful.
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Once Upon A Time
Welcome to Love Lies Beneath. I’m Zette Harbour. I’m glad to have you here. Do you feel like stress, fear or pain take up way too much of your energy? Have you wondered if you’ll ever be free of that heaviness of your past? Do you long to feel as good on the inside as your life looks on the outside?
In this podcast, you’ll discover the story of who you really are, and how to set yourself free. Together, we’re going to travel into those wild spaces of our inner landscapes, and dive deeply into the rich soil of our lives, reclaiming Soul through Story and healing our Hearts. My book, Love Lies Beneath is the map. Be sure to subscribe to this podcast so you don’t miss any of this enriching journey. And now, let the adventure begin.
In Episode 13, Once Upon A Time, I invite you to come with me and explore the possibility that the stories you have about yourself that you feel are 100% true, might indeed be just that, stories. And all stories are things that we create. And of course, you have events and people and conditions in your life that you can point to and say, those are facts. And that is the power of intentional story making.
Is It True?
You see, when we unconsciously create stories, they erupt out of our stress, fear and pain. And they may pull in little shreds of facts here and there, just enough to make them appear true. To help us explain the stress, fear and pain that we feel, to even hopefully help us avoid feeling more stress, fear and pain. When we intentionally craft a story, we look for the truth rather than the facts. And that is why one of the things that I always loved being asked, after a storytelling performance, I would share some traditional folk tale and there would be some magical being and supernatural kind of happening. And someone in the audience would always say, ‘is that story true.’ And I loved responding to that. Because what I knew was that these folktales didn’t have to be factual in order to be true.
And what was true about them was the universal and epic themes that they pointed to, the way of being aliv, that they modeled for us, the way that they opened awareness to new ways of being. And so in today’s episode, I am going to read a part of the book to you where I start talking about my first moments of recognizing the difference between the stories that erupted out of stress, fear and pain, and the stories that I began to understand I had the power to consciously craft, to consciously take ownership of, and the stories that I could now inhabit and live, and in doing so, my entire life would be enlivened. I would feel more vital, I would feel more myself.
Power Over My Life
I’m going to read the next section from my book called Once Upon A Time. Now, I felt an emerging willingness to consider my participation in the pain and chaos of my life. It felt like the first hint of pre-dawn and its promise of sunrise. It signaled that I was willing to step into my stories as an explorer. This could allow for just the slightest possibility that I might have more power over the conditions of my life than I had ever believed. This first stepping into this new kind of wilderness allowed me to begin to reclaim my Soul, and in doing so, initiate the healing of my Heart. With the appearance of these first rays of the morning sun, the darkness of my life could never be the same again.
Thankfully, it was not like a supernova blasting me blind. Spending time in traditional tales allowed me to ease into the brightness of my new perceptions. There was no sense that I could get any of it wrong. Even more reassuring was the realization that I also did not need to get any of it right. Folktales were some of my most remarkable teachers. These soulfully distilled tapestries tell the story of what it is to be human. I learned to not just read the words on a page, but to step into them, to live inside of them. They offered me a landscape within which to discover myself, I loved the idea of welcoming the many players in a folktale as parts of me that wanted to connect. It was a relief to spend time with the parts of me that I would not usually accept in stories.
As I immersed myself in and absorbed each, I let my guard down. This enabled me to truly inhabit each of the characters and receive the tale’s richness. It was essential for me to let go of any desire to judge one as good or bad. Because that allowed me to be a better storyteller. My place was the compassionate witness. And all were welcome. This practice of seeing, embracing, appreciating, and loving all of the characters in the tale helped me open my heart and mind to my own stories. I felt such joy in exploring and sharing the folktales. The characters never had to be all good or all bad. My ability to walk side by side with the helpless and the harmful with compas sion toward both had awakened. My affection for all of them softened the edges of my judgment. In doing so, my conviction of myself, and those I perceived as villains in my own life also softened.
It was not that bad things were erased or had not happened. This did not eliminate the accountability of myself or of others. Over time, and all of a sudden, I could allow both to be true. I had indeed experienced pain and loss because of adults who were to care for me and protect me. Yet, when I read the stories of Rumpelstiltskin, or the Handless Maiden, I could so easily see the value of the heroine’s entire life path, not just the parts that felt good, or were easy. Once this doorway was opened to me, I was irresistibly drawn to explore what I found within. A passion was lit within me that has burned brightly ever since.
Story Is Limitless
Amazingly, the pool of Story seemed limitless. Humans love storytelling and every culture known has myths and stories. It was as if an expansive part of myself that I had not known existed had come alive. Spending time living into a folktale was and continues to be a balm for my Soul, Heart and Mind. I enjoyed all kinds of stories, but the ones with the depth created by darkness, were my favorites. It sounds morbid, but it did not feel that way. bringing those stories to life within my imagination or in performance was deeply satisfying. This was a way to dig deep into the rich soil of my life.
I felt like a tree stretching its roots deeper and deeper into the earth to soak up the richest nutrients. Water from the purest underground spring quenched my thirst for understanding and expression. I was becoming whole. I would take as much time as necessary to fully establish my root system, allow my trunk and branches to become strengthened, and unfurl the leaves, flowers and fruit of my life. I would be on this journey for many years, decades even.
Story made this possible for me and folklore was my great teacher. As long as I modeled my exploration of my inner terrain after the tales that spoke to me, I would find my way home. More importantly, I would find meaning in the journey along the way. Being able to awaken others to their story’s soulfulness became a cherished gift. Fortunately, I understood fairly early on that it was not my job to help anyone. I understood that everyone who crossed my path was there for their reasons. Like a character in a folktale, they also played a role in my adventure. Whoever appeared was there as a voice of my Soul, as I was a voice of theirs. We each had our own business to attend to and for that moment, we could play a valuable part for the other.
This is how it works in folktales. You are not responsible for the journey of the other, even though you may be one of the elements that make their story possible. That may sound like I am not responsible for how I affect others. It may look like I have no accountability for the impact of my actions. The truth is absolutely the opposite. When I understand that my interaction with you is an expression of my Soul, and an essential part of my destiny, I will make a far more conscious choice. I am able to see you not as someone who makes me feel good or bad. I see you as a fellow traveler, and we are equals, companions sharing this road of life.
This completely contradicted my ideas that others were the sources of either my pain or happiness. I no longer engaged in fruitless and exhausting efforts to figure out who was to blame or what it was ‘out there’ that was hurting me. I had a new perspective built on my own accountability for my experiences. This was the mirror opposite of my earlier acts of self-wounding. Before, I had had to blame and maim myself as a pretense of control. Now, those betrayals of myself and the justifications that went with them, were no longer necessary. This was a mind blowing revelation. For me that was also one of the greatest gifts of my time with Joanna. My memory is that it felt like a wave of warmth and awareness flooding over me chasing away all darkness.
Creating Boundaries Through Story
All of those repugnant stories I had thought to be absolute truth, were within my power to rewrite. Not only that, I was the person who had written them in the first place. Yes, others had behaved in ways that were harmful to me. But the narrative I had created as a response was all mine. Quite unexpectedly this helped me to become more skillful at setting boundaries. This was a skill I had to build over time, but it was only possible once I understood that I had the power over my own Story. My clarity about my stories helped me to stand in a more truthful place about myself. In reconciling my grief and pain from my victimizing experiences, I came to feel like I was worth something. My worthiness meant that I had the right to claim and hold a boundary.
My wounded parts of me were real, and they called me to bring them back home. The stories I had used to exile them were something of a magic spell. It would take the same kind of power to restore them to their proper form and rightful place, safely and lovingly held in my heart. Reclaiming them would require a reckoning that faithfully bore witness to the beauty and power of my Soul. It would not be a new story. Instead, it would be a return of a true story.
One of my absolute favorite teachings that I have received from Story is the awareness that it is possible for things to look bad, to look negative, it’s possible for characters to appear to be villains. And yet, in truth, they may be the most powerful elements in the story. And that really taught me that I could look through that same lens at my literal life, and the people in it. And now, I don’t mean to say that there are not people doing bad things. There are and it’s not our job to enable them or make excuses for them. In fact, when we recognize the power, we have to intentionally craft our own most powerful story, that is what enables us to not have those people run all over us, walk all over us, treat us badly.
If anyone had told me 35 to 40 years ago, that being accountable for my emotions, and the conditions of my life, rather than blaming those people from my past, that I knew had caused me harm. If someone had told me that doing that meant that I would feel stronger, walk through the world with more clarity, have stronger boundaries, know more fully who I am, that I would be less likely to experience harm, that I would be less likely to be at the effect of others, I would not have believed you. Because at that point, the way I saw the world was, the only way to protect myself is to be fiercely angry and hurt about what had happened. And that was how I was going to build my moat, in order to keep more hurt out.
It turns out the exact opposite is true. The more I accept that, indeed, things happened and they were painful. And I was very young and unable to truly manage. And that my attempt at managing was really by building these stone walls around myself to protect me from hurt. But it also locked me up and kept me from being able to freely and fully enjoy my life, to really show up as who I am here to be. And so it’s a really interesting difference when we stop being protective, yet, we become more powerful. So it’s a really interesting paradox that the more we stop being protective, the more powerful we become. And that’s what Story showed me over and over.
Accountability & Compassion
In these folktales, what I saw was the heroine, recognizing that her journey was not one of the warrior, one of fighting, conquering, slaying. It was that she would journey through the stress, fear and pain. She was accountable for herself and how she felt and also for her actions. And it was through that accountability, and through her compassion for herself, that she became so strong.
So I want to leave you with this thought, in the coming days. When you feel a need to protect yourself. When you feel that you are being walked all over or someone is pushing you around. You feel that you aren’t strong, that you are at the effect of others. Think to yourself about what Story you might have, from probably a long time ago, that tells you that that’s who you are. And if that Story is in there, how can you follow those roots all the way down into the soil of yourself, connect to that deep inner wisdom with that kind curiosity, and say, I see you I embrace you. I appreciate you and I love you.
I’m Zette Harbour. This is Love Lies Beneath. I hope you’ll subscribe to this podcast so you won’t miss a single bit of this adventure. You can also reach out to me at my website, LoveLiesBeneath.com. There you can find show notes and other resources. You can even set up a virtual coffee date with me and we’ll talk Story. Go raibh míle maith agat!