“The story is not the person.” And often the story is not the story, at least not the whole story. I think that is one of Rosemary’s points.
I had the great privilege over a number of years to “sit at the feet” of Robert Bly. One of his “lessons” was to examine a story or poem on at least three levels: the concrete, the psychological and the mythical. And even then large swaths of a story can be glossed over or missed entirely.
At the concrete level, the story is never the person. You can’t know much at all from this level. It is superficial at best. To use a well worn cliché it’s like judging a story-book by its cover. I am a great fan of science fiction; I can never guess what a book is about from looking at the typically lurid cover! These days you certainly can’t judge anything from clothes. Styles are all over the map and casual is becoming formal in many venues! For those who are well trained and experienced in sensory acuity there are deeper layers to the concrete level that can be observed. Milton Erickson pioneered the use of body language in his hypnotherapy work and could utilize a subtle movement, twitch or flush to take a patient into deeper trance. And this brings us to the psychological level of the story.
Rosemary’s point that “the story is not the person” is much about this psychological level, the back-story, the underlying elements to a person that are buried behind the external persona. Sometimes this deeper part of the story is hidden even from one’s self. Our layers of beliefs for example are not necessarily something we dwell on to determine our current motivations or reactions to situations. It is this psychological level that gets protected, especially the shadow components of our makeup…and we all have them. Our boundaries protect this area and need that respect Rosemary urges us to observe.
And it is this level that we need to take into consideration when interacting with people. We all have our psychological stories. Some we can feel free and even good about sharing. Some remain hidden, protected behind our walls of privacy. The point here is to realize every one of our encounters with a person involves a hidden layer that needs our understanding and respect. We have our boundaries and they have theirs; let the unrevealed layers be a part of the mystery of the encounter.
It is at the mythic layer to the story where we can have some fun. And I don’t mean to make fun but to be inventive, creative in our approach to interacting with others. At some level we humans are all archetypes; we embody all the mythical gods and goddesses, the legendary figures from history, the stories of golden ages with mythic heroes and heroines from pre-history. Bly’s approach to analyze a poem or a story at the mythic level is to look for the archetypal, the over-arching theme that holds deeper meaning beyond the superficial and even the mental levels; the god-like meanings that underpin the entire arch of the story. And we can apply this approach to our encounter with others. Ask, what part of the greater mythology of human existence is this person playing, in his life, in my life, in the greater context of human evolution!
That’s right! Every one of us is playing a role, our personally designed role, in the expanding story of human evolution, the evolution of consciousness! This is exciting, scary, sobering, even mind-boggling. And it’s true.
So, next time when you meet someone, a friend, an acquaintance, even a stranger, ask yourself what role that someone is playing in the unfolding mythology of humanity!