Anything that I know to be cool I have likely learned about from one of my clients. It’s really quite a perk of the job, the varying tidbits that I gather all day long from such a wide variety of brilliant sources. One such suggestion was the podcast, Ologies, which has been a delight to dive into. In the show, the host Alie Ward, interviews a wide range of experts in varying fields who are classified as “_ologists,” in their respective arenas. One of these episodes that I found to be of particular interest was with mythologist, John Bucher. I won’t spoil the whole episode, but it is full of gems and I highly recommend listening to the whole thing.
However, the part that particularly caught my ear was during his explanation of a fable, specifically, The Tortoise and The Hare. In his explanation, John explains that historically, before things got a bit watered down, fables were meant to be interpreted as each character representing a different part of the self. Often when we hear this tale today, we mistakenly interpret it by aligning ourselves as either the tortoise or the hare and the lesson we learn then depends on which identification we have made. However, the fable is actually meant to illuminate two different sides of self here, two different sides that are in fact, in opposition with one another.
It just so happens, that this is precisely how I learned to go about working with my clients healing from eating disorders. The brilliant Carolyn Costin, worked from the model of two competing sides of self that ultimately, require integration in order to achieve and maintain recovery. There is the eating disorder self, and there is the soul self/healthy self. Her approach works to slowly reconnect a client to the soul self/healthy self that has been less forefront, and from there, the soul self/healthy self begins to become more prominent and can combat the eating disorder self through internal self to self dialogue. If this sounds confusing, here is the comparison I often give my clients. When I wake up in the morning, there is the side of self that wants to hit snooze and go back to bed, but there is a strong side of me rooted in my values and goals and connections, that reminds me that I need to get up and out into my day. However, that part that wants to hit snooze may be important for me to listen to and honor in other contexts, like a cozy Friday night on the couch with Netflix and no plans, just not in ways that compromise my well-being.
The episode touches on some crossover between mythology and psychology and how both are rooted in story telling. As a kid, I was really into theater and acting, and while I later grew up and realized the life of an actor was not one I could stomach, my fascination with stories and story telling has never dulled. I find that truly powerful therapeutic work hinges upon the ability to tell our own story using our own words and conceptualizations to make sense of our experiences and ultimately, ourselves.
What stories and myths might you be telling? What parts of self are leading the way?