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Archive for December 16th, 2010

Once Upon a Time…

“Now in psychology, one of the most important phenomena is the statement, and in particular its form and content, the latter aspect being perhaps the more significant with regard to the nature of the psyche.”

C.G. Jung (CW 9i, par. 384)

Everyone loves a good story. We grow up hearing stories, reading stories and seeing stories told through the moving image of film. In days gone by, people would gather around in the evening to listen to tales told by a storyteller – a person gifted with the ability to bring stories alive in the imagination of the listener. Today, there are rich and imaginative collections of fairy tales, myths and legends that we can still read to each other. As the saying goes, there is nothing like a good yarn to excite one. Simply put, a good story excites and animates us.

Our lives are stories filled with, to name just a few experiences: joy, excitement, love, anxiety, sadness, and loss. Each of us lives their own storyline, but our stories also overlap and interweave with the stories of others. At times, we become stuck in a particular storyline, which evokes the image of a fairy tale character who becomes enchanted and trapped by the wicked witch or wizard. Psychologically, we no longer develop and repeat old destructive patterns. This analogy between fairy tale and our lived experience illustrates the tremendous value of being familiar with story. Embedded within stories are metaphors, images that point to deep experiences. Jung (CW 9i, par. 267) says, “An archetypal content expresses itself, first and foremost, in metaphors.” Thus, by reading stories we are awakened to the reality of archetypes. Why is this so important?

Archetypes are coherent patterns that guide us in life. In times past, they were the gods that helped or hindered us in our journey through life. Jung (CW 9i, par. 266) says, “Archetypes were, and still are, living psychic forces that demand to be taken seriously, and they have a strange way of making sure of their effect.” The more aware we are of the archetypal forces playing out in our life, the more we can consciously participate in the writing of our lived story. Ignoring the archetypal forces in life is an invitation to disaster. Think of Ulysses, who by neglecting to honor the gods, ended up wandering the Mediterranean sea for years. Life invites us to be integrally involved in writing our storyline. Jungian psychology points out that an important part of this process is becoming aware of the archetypal forces populating our world. Reading a good story or seeing a good film keeps us in touch these interesting and powerful forces that live in us. What was last good story you heard or saw?

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