The Stories We Tell Our Self–Part 2

The Stories We Tell Our Self–Part 2

The yoga teacher training I am enrolled in has been a powerful catalyst for healing and one of the tools we use is myth. Since yoga is based in Hindu tradition, the mythology is Hindu which is a culture that is unfamiliar to my western psyche. And honestly, I haven’t resonated with it. The story content is thus far quite patriarchal and while the stories can be illustrative of the human condition no matter the cultural upbringing, they have mostly served to point me to other stories and traditions that I do resonate with and most importantly have helped me uncover a personal mythos.

Recently I wrote about the personal myth–the story we tell our self about our self based on life experiences. I suggested that we are capable of releasing the negative story of judgment and criticism and feeling the freedom that comes from living outside a ‘storyline.’ Another element of that potentially damaging personal myth is the family myth and it can be just as wounding and is quite likely the foundation of our individual story.

When I was in my early twenties, nearly four decades ago, my grandfather said, ‘God won’t love you if you do this.’I was making a decision that my entire family thought was wrong and rather than support me or help me through it, they cast me into hell. Literally. In my family, if you did anything outside their acceptable parameters you were not only wrong, you were quite literally going to burn for it, cast away from God. My grandmother suggested I go into a hospital to regain my sanity. I’m not kidding. If you dared to do anything outside what was acceptable by the ‘family’ you were a bad, bad person and no longer were held in the family embrace…but they loved you anyway. 

The family mythos…We love you even when you are less than what we expect. Love you when you when you break our rules, when you are not perfect…and look how good and virtuous we are because we love you even when you are displeasing God.I’m certain my family wasn’t the only one with a direct line to God about every other family member. What about your family? And yours? Does your family say…I love you, but….I love you, anyway?

If family mythos is the foundation of our life then cultural mythos is the foundation of the family storyline. Cultural myth is powerful whether it is based in religious or secular stories. As we grow we see our life reflected in the stories so we can evolve spiritually, emotionally and mentally from applying these myths to our life. And yet, if we take the myth as fact we can easily become stuck in it. Just like the family storyline, the cultural stories can harm us if we take them literally.

For instance, Cinderella was saved by the prince from a life of servitude. Does that mean women have to constantly be rescued? That’s a dangerous precedent to follow yet that’s one of the stories feminism has helped debunk. A mentor of mine led a workshop on faery tales many years ago and taught a wonderful way to apply them.

Dolores had us become various characters in the same story during guided meditations. In the story of Cinderella we were Cinderella, then the next time Prince Charming. Or the wicked stepmother. The benefit of myths is that we can see each character as our self and thus gain understanding of various parts of us. The inner feminine needs a powerful inner masculine. The inner wicked stepmother needs to heal jealousy and anger. The inner stepsisters need to work on their selfishness.

If cultural myths are taken literally, they can become methods of control and create a destructive patterns of behavior. When we use them to examine our life, they can transform our life.

A small cohort of women in my yoga training recently presented the story of Kali after I rewrote it. It was one of the most powerful experiences in the training thus far and it resulted from several of us finding the patriarchal myths irritating. We were able to work with the story of Kali and apply it to our lives as a way toward inner transformation. 

Life isn’t static. Life is flow. Life is creative and evolutionary. It is time to rise up and question the stories we tell our self about our self whether they come from family, culture or our own patterns of thought. 

When we embody the limited mythology of the family and culture and use it to abuse ourselves with criticism and judgment, our story becomes very dark and scary. If we assign our self a role to play and limit our self to that one role, we stop the possibility of personal evolutionary growth. When the message we receive is that we are failures if we don’t adhere to the family mythos, the cultural mythos, or the religious mythos we began to give ourselves conditional love…I love you but you are a total disappointment. I love you even if you are a failure. 

It’s not, I love you, anyway. It’s I love you. Period.

Until we can let go of our personal, family and cultural myths as ways to define our lives, we are destined to remain stuck in the same storylines, never evolving past the limiting stories and never realizing the unlimited potential that can chart the course of a lifetime if we have the courage to stop telling our self the same, old stories. 

Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: