Lately I have been thinking about how the stories we tell ourselves effect our ability to change and move forward in our lives. This is probably because I have devoted my life's work to the study of how people change. I have noted that the things that hold people back the most are not always the events of their life, but the interpretation of those events that they somehow weave into self limiting stories about "who they are." This post is about my own experience with one of those self limiting stories and how it effected my life.
Today, while out walking, I came upon a beautiful white feather that reminded me of when I was a 4 year old child playing at the beach with my mother. I remember picking up a beautiful feather on that day that happened to be lying in the sand. I was delighted in my discovery of my treasure and anxious to bring it back to her. She was waiting on a nearby blanket with my lunch. But to my shock and amazement, when I brought her my wonderful discovery, she became angry at seeing me carry a “filthy” feather from the sand. She took the feather, threw it down into the sand, and told me to go wash my hands so that she could give me lunch. I could not understand why she did not find this object of beauty as fascinating as I did. Off I went to the ocean to wash my hands only to notice another, even more beautiful feather in the sand. So, without being able to resist, I took this even more beautiful feather back to my mother, who (in her frustration) once again became angry, threw it into the sand and slapped my face telling me to go wash my hands again.
It’s not so much the events of our lives that shape us, as much as the meaning of those events as we remember them while creating those self-limiting stories in our minds that we carry with us over the years. The story that I made up about that event with my mother so many years ago was that I was not lovable or O.K. enough. There must be something very wrong with me.
I did not pick up a feather again that day, after that slap to my face. Nor can I remember ever picking up a feather again for about 50 years. But in the past couple of years of my life, I have made a conscious decision to pick up every beautiful feather I see, take the time to admire it, and sometimes even bring it home, where I place it with my other treasures of nature.
In my bedroom, there is an alter in which I have a statue of Buddha. In his hands I have strategically placed one of my favorite feathers. Beside this statue sits a photo of a 4 year old girl standing alone on the beach, holding her gaze to the heavens. That little girl in the photo is me.
In the world of archetypes, which are universal patterns of behavior that are embedded in (what Carl Jung referred to as) the “collective unconscious”, there are 2 universal archetypes that come to mind when remembering this story. The first being the Magical Child, who sees the potential for sacred beauty in all things and holds on to the belief that anything is possible. This is the child who sees the world through curious eyes while being both enchanted and enchanting to others. She embodies the qualities of wisdom and courage.
The second archetype is that of the Wounded Child, whose spiritual journey takes her through the path of forgiveness. She is the child of compassion, in that through her painful experiences she awakens a desire to be of service to other wounded children. She must learn to forgive so that she can arise from her wounds victorious. If she doesn’t, she will never transcend her painful memories or fully emerge into her higher purpose.
We all have memories that we create stories around. I had to consciously re-write that old story to one that made more sense. My mother was an ordinary mortal who was inpatient with her 4 year child that day on the beach. It had nothing to do with my value as a person or my worthiness to be loved.
What old self-defeating stories might you be holding onto in your life? If there are any, perhaps now is the time to re-write them for yourself and to consider paying tribute to the archetypes of the Wounded and Magical Child in you. Guard and protect the part of yourself that sees life through the eyes of the curious Magical Child, the part that recognizes beauty and revels in the mystery of it all.
I am thankful that my own Wounded Child was able to heal through my ability to forgive, let go of the past and see my mother (who has long since passed away) through the eyes of compassion. I am even more grateful for my Magical Child, who was able to remember and recapture a part of my childhood that allowed me to delight in the beauty of nature again and to use my life, in my work as a therapist, to help others embody the qualities of wisdom and courage in facing their own difficult memories and life adversities, while deeply honoring the gifts of these 2 wondrous archetypes.
Leslie is a transpersonal therapist working in the South Florida area. For more information about her work or to read additional articles, you may visit her website at www.ADDadults.net