Virgin, Martyr, Saint, Witch?

Boys can play too!

Who was it who said that there are no new stories in life, just stories retold in new circumstances?

Yet for each of us, our story is completely unique.  It is still unfolding and perpetually fascinating!

The circumstances of our busy lives of 2008 are different from the lives of our great-grand parents 100 years ago.  Our lives are less scripted.  We can shape them much as we please.

In large part, we write our stories, or at least our treatment of the circumstances that we can come across along the way.

Archetypes

The common stories of the central characters of a story, that is you and I, are called archetypes, I understand.

Woman often rail about the common stories in which we are cast.

One of my pleasures of the last year was discovering the works of Paulo Coelho, the Brazilian writer.   Last week I read The Witch of Portobello.  One of the supporting characters introduces her acquaintance with Athena, the main character, with these words.

We women, when we’re searching for a meaning to our lives or for the path of knowledge, always identify with one of four classic archetypes.

The Virgin (and I’m not speaking here of a sexual virgin) is the one whose search springs from her complete independence, and everything she learns is the fruit of her ability to face challenges alone.

The Martyr finds her way to self-knowledge through pain, surrender and suffering.

The Saint finds her true reason for living in unconditional love and in her ability to give without asking anything in return.

Finally, the Witch justifies her existence by going in search of complete and limitless pleasure.

Normally, a woman has to choose from one of these traditional feminine archetypes, but Athena was all four at once.

Which storyline resonates with you?

Are you torn between two story lines?  Which makes you feel relaxed?  Does knowing the four common story lines help resolve choices?

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Distance lends enchantment to the view

Burning out?

Advice from an ‘old hand’ to a ‘new teacher’ whose class got the better of him: in Goodbye Mr Chips, which I watched over the weekend.

“You have some hours before prep starts. Go out. Out there under the sky. Look around. What is the saying? Distance lends enchantment to the view. Go out. Come back refreshed.”

Paulo Coelho offers the same advice. Don’t spend the day looking down. Look to the horizon.

David Whyte has the same advice. Sometimes the answer depends upon a walk around the lake.

Then go out, look out, reach out

Whenever life is bad, look to the horizon. Close your eyes and listen to the furthest sounds that you can hear.

And if you can, do it when you first awake in the morning.  Do it in short 1 minute break at work.  Do it commuting on the way home.

Is that why you pay so much for a house or office with a view?

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Law of attraction, positive thinking . . . how old is it?

A long back story

I took out Goodbye Mr Chips from my local library thinking it would be nice to relax for a couple of hours with this gentle, slightly sentimental, very inspirational movie. For non-Brits, this is a classic pygmalion, teacher story with romance thrown in. Think To Sir With Love, History Boys and Freedom Writers. I think when Yanks write pygmalion stories they are typically about basketball coaches. Britain has teacher stories.

Goodbye Mr Chips is a double-pygmalion story. Mr Chipping is an awkward “Latin master” in a “public school”.  If you are non-Brit, read exclusive private school (or prep school in Americanese – a prep school here preps you to go to public school which takes you to the army academy or university).

Mr Chipping has two mentors. A charming relaxed fellow teacher and his wife. They are the catalysts in allowing Mr Chipping, or Chips as he comes to be called, to incorporate the softer side of his nature in his teaching style, reform the rugged-masculine-bullying culture of the school, and to encourage boy-after-boy, and their sons after them, to blend the feminine sides of their nature with the masculine demands of their school and obligations to country.

I thought I was borrowing the musical version with Peter O’Toole from the library.   When I got home, I discovered I a new version with Martin Clunes, the star of the TV show, Doc Martin. He makes a marvellous Mr Chips with the mixture of clumsiness and kindness that we also see in Doc Martin. (He doesn’t sing btw, and nor do we hear the boys singing which we did in the earlier version).

The story seems slightly different too – but so be it. After this long back story, this is the quote I wanted to give you.

“I found that when I stopped judging myself harshly, the world became kinder to me. Remember I told you once, go out, and look around the world. Do that now. Only this time, let the world look at you. And the difference, I assure you, the world will like what it sees.”

Positive psychology is more than positive thinking

This is the concept which takes positive psychology far beyond positive thinking. It has echoes of the pygmalion effect, popularized in the musical My Fair Lady in which a flower girl becomes a lady. It includes the Galatea effect, ably researched by Dov Eden, who also researches the pygmalion effect in work settings. Basically, the Pygmalion effect is the effect of other people’s expectations on us. So a teacher creates clever pupils by expecting more of them. A teacher creates dull pupils by expecting failure and subtly communicating doubts and restricting the resources and time we need to learn. The Galatea effect works the other way around. It is the effect of our own self-perception.  It is not that seeing is believing. But that, believing is seeing.

Is this new?

George Bernard Shaw wrote Pygmalion 100 years ago. 150 years ago Goethe wrote:

The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Goethe

The idea that we shape the future is so new to us in the west. The idea that the universe comes to us sounds a little new age.

Of course, we cannot do anything. We don’t want to do anything.

But there are some things, we want to do. And if we can imagine those things, if we believe in them deeply without effort, if they make sense, if they seem right in themselves, if we believe in them enough to take the first hesitant step,

if we believe in them enough to take the first hesitant step,

then the universe conspires to help us.

Skeptical?

This is tautological, of course. It will work because it is right and it is right because it works.

Ask only whether what you want is right, and why you would want anything that doesn’t work!

Find your angel

For people with a mystical bent or open mind, Paulo Coelho‘s The Valkryies illustrates Csikszentimihaly‘s notion of negotiating the fit between oneself and the environment. Without spoiling the read, I’ve extracted some passages to show the process of remaining engaged with the world around us while we deal with the immediate pressures of life, of overcoming self-doubt, and then of moving forwards taking our cues from the place we are in. Paulo Coelho also has a blog with a daily message here.

Look to the horizon

“Okay,” . . . : I’m going to tell you what it is I wanted you to notice: All the people who passed by in the street were looking down.” (p. 37)

“All of us create a kind of ‘magic space’ around us. Usually it’s a circle of about fifteen-foot radius, and we pay attention to what goes on within it. It doesn’t matter whether it is people, tables, telephone, or windows; we try to maintain control over that small world that we, ourselves, create.” (p. 38)

Second mind

“Sit down, close your eyes, and I will show you what the second mind is,” . . . (p. 28)

“No, no. I want to know whether you’re thinking about something else. Something beyond your control.” (p. 30)

“A melody,” . . . “I’ve been singing this melody to myself ever since I heard it yesterday on the radio on our way here.” (p. 30)

“That is the second mind,” . . . “It’s your second mind that’s humming the song. It can do that with anything. . . . But the second mind is a tough thing to deal with. It’s a work regardless of whether you want it to be.” (p. 30)

“She had two minds. Functioning at the same time.” (p. 31)

“In order to penetrate the invisible world and develop your powers, you have to live in the present, the here and now. In order to live in the present, you have to control your second mind. And look at the horizon.” (p. 32).

“Gene asked her to concentrate on the melody that she had been humming. . . . Chris concentrated. In a few moments, the melody disappeared. She was now completely alert, listening to Gene’s words.” (p. 33)

“Don’t fight your thoughts. . . . Think about what they want you to think about until they grow tired.” (p. 76)

“Be patient, and listen to everything your second mind has to say. Don’t respond. Don’t argue. It will get tired.” (p. 79).

Channel

“Open the channel. Begin to speak.” (p. 87)

Seeking

“What will vanish is the idea that the mountains I have conquered are too small. I will be able to keep alive my love for what I have accomplished.” (p. 98)

Pact with defeat

“I am talking about your pact with defeat”

“We have a contract, you and I: not to win when victory is possible.”

“I have never made any such pact.”

“Everyone has. At some point in our lives. we all enter in to such agreement. That’s why there is an angel with a burning sword at the gates to paradise. To allow entry only to those who have broken that pact.” (p. 112)

“From the moment that you set foot outside,” . . . “promise, in the name of archangel Michael, never again – never again – will you raise your hand against yourself.”

“You will still have many problems in your life, some of them normal, some of them difficult. But, from now on, only God’s hand will be responsible for everything – you will interfere no more.” (p. 133).

“God has the right to destroy me. I do not.” (p. 135)

“He thought of the books he had written, and he was happy. The year would end without any problems – because the pact had been broken. There was no doubt that problems would arise in his work,in love, and along the path to magic – serious problems or passing problems . . . But from now on, he would battle side by side with his guardian angel.” (pp. 135-136)

Accept forgiveness

“God is love, generosity and forgiveness; if we believe in this, we will never allow our weaknesses to paralyse us.” (p. 245)
“Our defects, our dangerous depths, our suppressed hatreds, our moments of weakness and desperation – all are unimportant. If what we want to do is heal ourselves first, so that then we can go in search of our dreams, we will never reach paradise. If, on the other hand, we accept all that is wrong about us – and despite it, believe that we are deserving of a happy life – then we will have thrown open an immense window that will allow Love to enter. Little by little, our defects will disappear, because one who is happy can look at the world only with love – the force that regenerates everything that exists in the Universe.” (pp. 242-242)

Make a bet

I think I’ll probably be infatuated many more times . . . He felt no guilt about it. Infatuation was a good thing. It gave spice to life, an added to its enjoyment.

But it was different to love. Love was worth everything, and couldn’t be exchanged for anything”. (p. 225)

“Do you remember what you said? You said: “Look around, this is my face. I am the place where you are.” (p. 227)