Philosophical Tenant 1: Stories are Living, evolving entities

by Pam England

A long time ago, I discovered a forgotten box of journals and books. Out of curiosity, I randomly opened a tattered spiral journal to see what it contained. Reading the first page, I did not recognize the writing or the story. Still, I remember thinking, “Sad that somebody felt so tormented by their cesarean,” and tossed the journal into a pile, assuming a client had left it behind. Minutes later, I wondered if that scribbled entry could be my original written account; I retrieved it and read it slowly; it was mine. I had written it some eight years earlier. 

When I rediscovered it, my story had gradually and wholly transformed from one of failure, shame, and grieving a missed rite of passage, into a narrative of little mercies, destiny, and a profound initiation. From that moment on, I regarded birth stories as living, evolving entities. In any given session, I know the story I am hearing is not set in stone but is as alive and flush with potential as the Seeker-Storyteller on their journey “home.”

As a novice birth story listener, I had assumed that birth stories could only be told and explored in the past tense—because they happened in the past—and thus, were forever set in the past! This point of view supports the belief that whatever happened in the past is over and cannot be changed. At the time, a similar limiting belief was being promoted by birth activists that posited “whatever happens or fails to happen during our births we will have to carry to our rocking chair.” Possibly the prophesy was intended to motivate mothers to birth naturally, but it only created anxiety in pregnancy and a defeating-image that troubled me for years after my cesarean. And now, the journal in my hands was a living testimony this assumption was not true.

“The future cannot be changed because it has not happened. But the past can be changed to what it is meant to be.” Susanna Ruebsaat, Mourning the Dream: Amor Fati

There are various pathways to transforming our living stories; one way includes following an image, a clue that is leading us toward hidden meaning and purpose, and ultimately to being embracing fate and destiny. It takes patience and allowing to be enfolded by our living myth until we come to know our authentic selves.

Naturally, we recount past events in the past tense, reiterating what we thought, believed, or felt at the time. So, the first story is just the first stratum of the social version, a familiar way to begin. But don’t stop here, lest in retellings over months, even years, your experience ossifies and you become overly attached or identified with it. 

It is much easier and more relevant to heal a “living” story than an exhausted, inert, “dead” one. Therefore, in the alchemical birth story work of the Birth Story Medicine process, we include the living story! Real in-sight is set in motion when the storyteller pays attention to what they are feeling, thinking about, and believing as they recall a particular memory.

A story evolves slowly, in unexpected ways until it completes. And then, the Storyteller arrives at the last Story Gate, the Gate of No Story.  The Wisdom is distilled from it, that is the “gold” that can shine in their lives and be shared with others (not the factual account).

copyright©2023 Pam England. All rights reserved.

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