“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”
There is a difference between what happened and the story you tell yourself about it. The facts can’t be changed, but the story about what those facts mean about you and your life is not fact — you created it, subconsciously.
But you can consciously create a new story, a powerful one that re-frames your experience in a way that helps you heal and that yields other positive benefits as well.
Because you subconsciously created a story from your ordeal, you probably don’t even realize that ‘default’ story exists. It’s important that you do, because it acts as a frame made up of beliefs and assumptions that controls how you think and feel. This post will bring that story into your awareness and help you to change it.
About six months after my ordeal with the psychopath came to an end, I had a serendipitous meeting with a Jungian analyst. I told him about my experience, and what he said surprised me:
“You had a run-in with the Red-Eyed Demon! Not everyone gets this tremendous opportunity! You’re on the Hero’s Journey!”
I was OK with the red-eyed demon part of what he said, but opportunity? Hero’s Journey? I was determined to overcome it, but I hadn’t quite seen it as an opportunity or as anything heroic.
Over time, I came to learn he was right.
Changing the frame, or context, of an experience can have a major influence on how you perceive, interpret and react to that experience.
A ‘frame’ provides a context or framework for your thoughts and actions. Put another way, your thoughts and actions happen within the context, and are dependent upon it. Therefore, a different context will create different thoughts, feelings and actions.
Re-framing is real. It’s not about trying to fool yourself by making up some feel-good story. It’s about finding the truth and living it. You have much more power than you believe you do, and you can claim that power.
You cannot change what happened to you. You were victimized by a psychopath. But you can choose what you do with it — what meaning it holds for you and how it affects you — by creating a new story that gives it a new meaning, one that empowers you.
♦ What story are you telling yourself about your experience with a psychopath? Is it a story of defeat, failure and danger, one that disempowers you and makes you doubt yourself and the world? Or is it a story of your resilience and strength, a story of overcoming significant trauma while learning and growing and building your wisdom, confidence and sense of self-worth?
What story are you telling yourself about your experience?
There is actually a form of psychotherapy called Narrative Therapy, based on the premise that throughout life, personal experiences are transformed into personal stories that are given meaning and help shape a person’s identity. Narrative therapy utilizes the power of people’s personal stories to discover the life purpose of the narrator. The motto of this school of thought is “The person is not the problem, the problem is the problem.” It views problems as separate from people and assumes people have many skills, competencies, beliefs, values, commitments and abilities that will assist them in overcoming a problem. It also fosters self-compassion and the development of post-traumatic growth. Narrative Therapy is all about ref-framing, or rewriting, your story about an experience.
The post continues below after this powerful poem from fellow reader and poet, Linda.
This poem was born of the need to change, to transition from a place of waiting
to a place of taking action, of recognizing and claiming my place in my world. In
acknowledging my own value I also found my poetic voice again – a voice I had lost
for a while.
Based on the premise that one might have been reincarnated from a hawk…
Standing in the Winter meadow
Measuring the dawning sky
A memory awakes and whispers:
Did I once know how to fly?
On the wind that calls the morning
I can hear a keening cry
And I understand the message:
Why are you afraid to try?
We who own the wings to wander
Higher than the heavens are high
Have a heritage to honor:
Throw your heart into the sky;
You have known our name: The Hunter,
You have let your spirit die;
You are bound to earth and now
You seek the Truth and live the Lie.
You must break your heart for freedom,
You must cut each earthly tie:
To say hello to your own vision
You must learn to say good-bye.
Waiting in the Winter meadow
Measuring a bright new sky
I claim my wings and on this morning
I choose freedom: I will fly.
© Linda 1990
“You are confronting one of the most startling – if not the most profoundly traumatic – experiences of your life… You are now confronted with the absolute reality of the situation. You must embark on what has to be your own hero’s journey to slay the dragon left within your psyche by the psychopathic experience.
… You will emerge from the other side with a new understanding of yourself and previous untapped potentials you were unaware of will suddenly shine forth. Unlike the superficial delusions of some born-again seekers or saviors, you have been truly saved by saving yourself. This is the ultimate lesson of the psychopathic encounter: to become your own hero.”
~ Thomas Sheridan, “Defeated Demons”
“This is the ultimate lesson of the psychopathic encounter: to become your own hero.”
The Hero’s Journey ~ Your New Story?
The hero’s journey is about growth and passage. The journey requires an experience that causes a separation from your comfortable, everyday world of the past, one that ultimately causes initiation into a new level of awareness and skill, and then a return back home.
There are three stages to the hero’s journey:
- Departure, when you left your familiar world and journeyed into the dark unknown;
- Initiation, when you were subjected to a series of great trials, both during and after; and
- Return, when you finally ‘come back home’ with your new wisdom and strengths and the “Freedom to Live,” which marks your attainment of psychological freedom from the psychopath.
This describes it perfectly. It’s no lie. It’s the real story — the real context — of your experience. It already belongs to you. The lie is the story of defeat and doubt and failure. That’s the story the psychopath wanted you to create and live with. Don’t fall for it anymore.
“Freedom to live” is the ultimate goal of healing. Re-framing your story as the Hero’s Journey allows you to break through the road blocks on your path and to move forward in a powerful a focused way.
The lie is the story of defeat and doubt and failure. That’s the story the psychopath wanted you to create and live with. Don’t fall for it anymore.
“The very scientist who, in the service of the sinful king, was the brain behind the horror of the labyrinth, quite as readily can serve the purposes of freedom. But the hero-heart must be at hand … Furthermore, we have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us — the labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.”
Do you believe that your ordeal was too terrible to ever recover from, and that going even further to experience positive growth from it is out of the question? Experiencing positive growth does not suggest that you aren’t suffering as your wisdom grows. In fact, significant distress is necessary for it to happen! Research shows a correlation between PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and post-traumatic growth, “suggesting that the disruption caused by the trauma is significant enough to create psychiatric symptoms and shattering enough to your assumptive world view to generate growth.” (Melinda Moore, “Positive Changes in the Aftermath of Crisis”)
When you frame your experience in a different way, life becomes framed in a new way. The way you approach the world, and how the world approaches you, changes. A new context, created by reframing your experience, leaves you with an ability to relate to life with freedom and power instead of fear. Yes, it’s that powerful! And it is possible. I can personally vouch for it, as can many others here.
The way you approach the world, and how the world approaches you, changes. A new context, created by re-framing your experience, leaves you with an ability to relate to life with freedom and power instead of fear.
You can reclaim your power by re-framing your experience in a way that gives it a new — and empowering — meaning. You truly can become your own hero.
But even a hero sometimes needs help.
“Oftentimes the hero must have powerful guides and rescuers to bring them back to everyday life, especially if the person has been wounded or weakened by the experience.”
I hope you will find whatever help you need, both from within and from others, to make your return back home and to be even stronger than ever before.
♥ What story do you tell yourself about your ordeal? How does it help or hinder you?
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