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.
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!