Mirror, Mirror on the wall…
In the story, the mirror tells the queen the truth and the same is true for the mirrors of our lives that are found in our stories. I discovered my own most powerful mirrors in traditional folktales.
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The Land Of Story
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 14, The Land Of Story. I am going to share a section of my book where I talk about the very first story that I reconnected to as an adult that opened a doorway into a land of such wonder for me. There was a perfect storm of ingredients that created this moment, being introduced to Carl Jung’s dream work and archetypes and Joseph Campbell’s mythology and his statement that our world needs a new story. When I heard him say that it really awakened a desire in me to, in whatever way I could, be a part of that, seeking and creating a new story.
The Hero’s Journey Is The Old Story
When I talk to people about story, it’s really common for them to acknowledge that they’re very familiar with the hero’s journey. We’ve seen it in Greek mythology. We’ve seen it in television shows, in books, in movies. The hero starts out with humble beginnings, and some terrible thing happens to turn his life upside down. And as a result, he begins to search… for himself really. And in doing so he generally learns that he is, in fact a true warrior and is able to attain a mastery of his skills. And it almost always ends with some sort of a battle. There are weapons, there’s armor. Someone usually has to die.
And I think that’s the story that Joseph Campbell was talking about. At least for me, that seemed the obvious choice. To me, it seemed like we need to shift from our worship of the hero’s journey, and find a new way. So, in order to be a part of this discovery, and creation of a new cultural story, I found myself, just, called deeply to folklore. There’s so much of it that we aren’t really that familiar with. What we’ve been exposed to in the media and movies and books, is really quite different than what the original tales have to tell us. And it’s by spending time with those original tales and feeling deeply into the universal human themes that are there and feeling deeply into what they showed me about my own life, I began to grow in my excitement and my certainty about the new story that was possible. It would begin with me and my own story.
Mirrors For My Soul
I learned that these folktales were truly mirrors for myself, I learned that these folktales were actually mirrors in which I could discover myself. They showed me so much about who I am, who I thought I was, the sorts of things that I brought along with me to explain who I believed myself to be. And these folktales actually offered me a great diversity, of images, of ways of being, of identities even. And it was in discovering that diversity, that I connected to my own diversity within, that I hadn’t even known existed until these stories awakened within me.
I’m going to read the next section of my book called The Land Of Story. The first story that reunited me with my childhood love of folklore was Rumpelstiltskin. About 28 years ago, I was reading it to my four year old daughter, and felt myself light up inside. I remembered it from my childhood and enjoyed all of the wonder it had awakened in me back then. Now, with my awareness of Young’s work with dreams, and my blossoming understanding of archetypes, I saw this imaginary world become alive and three dimensional right before my very eyes.
This wasn’t just the tale of a mysterious, powerful little man solving a young woman’s unsolvable problem in exchange for her child. I could hear the weaver telling his daughter, how he had lied to the king. I felt her pain of betrayal and confusion. I lived with her in those moments of fear, as she faced an impossible task under the threat of death. Like her, I was willing to pay anything to escape the trouble someone else’s mistake had put me in. Once I saw the power of this initiatory story, I knew it was just a matter of setting out on the adventure. My view of my life shifted as it from black and white into Technicolor. I felt like I possessed secret knowledge that had been hidden in plain sight the whole time. Story was the key to making what often felt like a one dimensional life come alive in three and even four dimensions. I was being invited to go on a quest of awakening. Because of this, I fell in love with stories.
The Journey Within
I have spent a lot of time exploring the land of story. I have walked the paths, wandered in the forests, and hiked the mountains. There have also been barren deserts, murky bogs, terrifying clifftops, and raging floods. What I found is that it is a mystical landscape that exists within each one of us. It is also how we explain the ordinary world we inhabit. My story tells me who I am and how I fit into this space and time I call my life. Folklore has allowed me to find a treasure trove of images and feelings with which to craft a richer story for myself. In these tales, I have seen possibilities that had not been available to me before. I was no longer trapped in a world where things were only bad or good. There would be disappointments, betrayals, losses, and even threats in these folktales as in my own life. From the safer perspective of an adult, I could see these events as essential elements of my journey in becoming more fully me. The characters I came to know and love taught me that life is a weaving of moments. Some of them feel good, others do not. These emotional triggers do not make those moments inherently good or bad.
For example, in exploring the stories in this book, I have been able to appreciate the alchemical nature of the painful moments in my life. This awareness does not eliminate the sting of the heartache. It does, however, allow me to search for and find its meaning. Before discovering the power of Story, I had lived with a weaving of images that told me who I was. Anytime I had a wounding that I had not been able to heal, I just scrunched the threads in a ball and shoved them into the fabric. This meant that there were more than a few knots and twisted messes jutting out. By immersing myself in the world of folktales, I learned to tease out my story threads and untangle them. This dramatically altered the tapestry I had woven to tell the story of me and my life. It is incredible what a difference it makes when the knots and tangles of life are sorted out. The image that emerges shines more beautifully, even with the inclusion of the unwieldy, darker moments
Before being initiated into this world of imagination, my response to my journey’s dark moments had been rejection and loathing. It is in being present to those demanding parts of the story that the tapestry becomes art. Only when there are compassion and nonjudgment is presence possible.
My earlier unloving way of handling the parts of my story that were painful and frightening, ensured that those threads would stay thoroughly tangled. The tableau would have ugly sections that I would not want to look at, for good reason. In declaring them ugly, they became ugly and I was justified in rejecting them. They were not worthy of my attention, and especially not of my love. Unfortunately, since the only way to banish them was to cut out the part of me that felt them, I maimed myself. Lots of ugly spots slashed with swords of hatred and disgust. No wonder I did not want to look closely at my life.
A New Story, A New Love
I am eternally grateful that I found Story and it found me. As I fell in love with each tale, I embarked on the journey of the heroine within. During my travels there I found a way to stay connected to my feelings of caring and acceptance for my ugly bits. When it came time to look at my own tale, I found it easier to transfer the caring and acceptance I felt for the folklore characters over to myself. The folktales were my dress rehearsals for retrieving my stories, healing my pain, and recovering my power.
Being able to tell the story of where I came from how I got here and where I want to go next is central to being human. It is foundational and utterly essential to be fully alive. Without Story, there is only a momentary and vague impression. If it is pleasing, then not having a lens through which to understand it may not feel like a problem. However, if that sensation is painful or frightening, it is essential to create some narrative to manage and navigate it. With Story, I may be able to make sense of my adversity or find meaning in it. Without Story, hurt, fear, and overwhelm take over. What I desperately need is to grasp onto some semblance of order. If I do not have an account that helps me make sense of my world, I am lost. Because of this even a negative story is better than no story at all. Creating a painful narrative about myself is at least something I can hold on to.
Making Story is a human birthright. We may be the only species that has the ability to create fiction, to make Story. In fact, there is no human culture on earth that exists without Story. This gift, which is sometimes a curse, gave rise to our creation stories, as well as the notion of what happens beyond life and in death. It is a tool used to inspire people as much as it has been wielded as a weapon to control them. It is the ability to create images, feelings and understandings most often with words. It gives the power to amplify life. It is also the tool used to engage others in elevating their lives.
Story is the fuel for every movement and revolution humankind has ever participated in. Your Story can keep you tethered and trapped at the bottom of the abyss, or it can launch you into the stratosphere and carry you into limitless space. Folktales make excellent mirrors for my own stories because they exist at a friendly distance. When I look within them, I only see what is meaningful to me at that moment. I have always encouraged listeners to hold their own hands up in front of their faces like a mirror. Then I ask, what do you see when you look into a mirror? The answer is, of course, that you see yourself.
Then one day, a brilliant and wise child chimed in that you see yourself and a bunch of the stuff behind you. I was stunned by the insight of this young boy. He had articulated something right there in front of me, but that I had not consciously seen. Of course, in a mirror, I do see myself and a bunch of the stuff behind me. That is the power of tapping into stories as mirrors, I discover how I presently see myself, as well as the stories of my past that make this image possible.
Traditional folktales allowed me to begin to see myself with less harshness, less judgment, less hatefulness toward myself. It didn’t happen overnight. And it wasn’t easy. It was simple. All I had to do was rely on the folktale to be my most faithful mirror. And as long as I was willing to look into her, she showed me everything that I needed. It was a skill that I had to develop, to learn to allow myself to see those ugly, tangled places in my story, those ugly tangled places in me, as long as I brought kind curiosity with me, and trusted that every single story contained within me had deep, rich wisdom, just waiting, I knew that I would be able to reclaim all the parts of me that I had left by the wayside, sitting in the dust and the dirt, all alone.
So I want to leave you with this thought. As you look at the moments in your life where you are experiencing that stress, that fear, or even pain, allow it. for just a moment, to be a story and imagine it as a mirror that you can look into with your own kind curiosity, trusting that there is deep rich wisdom within and know that you have the right that you deserve to become whole once again. You deserve to come home to yourself.
I’m Zette Harbour. This is Love Lies Beneath. I’m Zette. Please subscribe to this podcast so that you do not miss a single step of this journey. And I invite you to connect with me at LoveLiesBeneath.com There you will find show notes and other resources and you can also set up a Virtual Coffee Date with me. I would love to hear your story. Go raibh míle maith agat!