Journaling: Personal Story as Artefact

Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.

~Rainer Maria Rilke, in Letters to a Young Poet

When our feelings are hurt we often embellish our personal suffering with stories, turning our pain into tragedy. In this way we make the pain worse, feeding it, keeping it alive, and justifying its expansion. It’s wise to avoid dwelling on these stories or repeating them to others.

On the other hand, stories can be viewed as artefacts, worthy of reconsidering in the present moment.

Only a tiny portion of our pain comes from the recent hurtful event; the rest comes from past pain that we’ve turned into our own sad story. Why not look at that story and find new meaning it?

What if, for example, the little mermaid was really the one the prince had loved best all along? What if Hansel and Gretel had simply misunderstood their parents’ instructions, considering them ill-willed towards them when in fact they were simply distracted? What if the witch had only been trying to keep Rapunzel safe from very real dangers?

What about your sad tale? Did you actually triumph where you thought you’d failed? Was the ogre simply an overwhelmed parent without the resources to grant you the sense of emotional safety you needed? I’m not suggesting you deny the truth, but sometimes examining a story with a cool eye will lead you to a deeper reality.

If separated from the pain itself and looked at with new eyes in the here and now, our stories can often grant us insight into a deeper truth— that no permanent harm has been done to us.

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