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What Myth Are You Living?

Carl Jung, the father of analytical psychology, wrote that the most important question anyone can ask is “What myth am I living?”

Notice that he doesn’t suggest we may be living a myth; his comment infers that we already are. We wrote about that in our book Thriving in Business and Life, in fact our first chapter is entitled The Power of Story.

And we’ve refined this further in the on-line course we are developing into 12 thriving practices. We call the first practice Owning Your Story.

Historians believe the first recorded stories may be cave paintings discovered in the French Pyrenees Mountains, dated at 15,000 BC. So, we’ve always told stories. According to studies at the University of Massachusetts, it’s how our brains are wired.

Not all of us realize this and fewer still know that, should we choose to do so, we can shape and re-write the story we live throughout each day

That’s what this post is about: How you can write the story you want to live. Whether it be moment-by-moment, or one chapter at a time. We have far more power to shape our experience of reality than we may recognize.

To learn how, let’s start with assessing how our brains create what we call The Circular Story:

  1. We tell a story about the facts

  2. This story entrances us; we now believe the story is the truth.

  3. We assume a role to play in the story and identify with it. This becomes our identity – who we believe we are (it too, of course, is a myth).

  4. We cast others in roles as well and convince ourselves that our definition of their identity is who they really are.

  5. The role we create for ourselves comes with a filter (how we see the world) and an attitude (how we interface with the world).

  6. This determines our behavior.

  7. Our behavior generates results, new facts about which we...

  8. Return to number one and repeat.

Unless we are aware of what we’re doing, most of us are get caught in a cycle of creating circular stories that follow these steps and generate dramas based on a familiar archetypal formula. If someone vacates a role we've created in our story, we simply fill that role with someone else in our life.

It's a phenomenon that addiction counselors know well. When an addict recovers, if the family can't pull that person back into their old role, they often find someone else to play the part of the wayward soul who has intractable problems. That's why the most successful addiction recovery programs involve the whole family -- so they can create a new more productive story and new healthier roles for themselves and each other.

Playwrights and philosophers identified this specific process eons ago and gave it various names. We use one of those names: The Drama Triangle.

Some call this the Karpman Drama Triangle, after its inventor, Dr. Stephen Karpman, who studied under Dr. Eric Berne, the father of Transactional Analysis. According to Karpman’s theory, “Initially, a drama triangle arises when a person takes on the role of a victim, rescuer or persecutor. This person then feels the need to enlist other players into the conflict. These enlisted players take on roles of their own that are not static, which means that the scenario can shift. For example, a victim might turn on her rescuer, the rescuer could then switch to persecuting, or they could all support each other to identify as victims.”

Does this sound familiar to you? Would you like to be able to interrupt this circular cycle and change the story you are living? If so, you can do exactly that by accessing a key entry point in the process.

Let’s assume that you are willing to assume responsibility for the stories you are creating in your mind and how those stories impact the meaning you impose upon the facts in your life. The next step is to ask yourself, how well is your current story working for you and other?

If it works fine, you’re good for now. If you find it's not working so well, you can do a reframe by redefining your role in any given circumstance. We call this “Flipping the Script.” And it’s also your thriving challenge for the week.

“Pick some aspect of your life where you can easily identify a story

you’ve been living and find where it’s not working as well as it might.

Now, play a different role—one that’s based on creating a thriving outcome.

What would that look like? How would you show up differently?).

Now, what new story can you tell and live?”

Christopher Harding and Will Wilkinson

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