Once upon a time, I practised as a therapist specialising in narrative psychology. My approach to this work was inspired by an early and abiding love and study of mythology and folk tales, and by my academic background in psychology which was later combined with a master’s degree in literature and creative writing. Although I worked with other creative imagination techniques as well, I always found that a narrative approach based on myths and stories created the deepest and most enduring transformations in the people I was working with.
The way I work with myth and story stems from my interest in Jungian and related approaches to psychology and is founded on archetypal symbology and iconography. Of all the different classes of stories we come across in our lives, myths and fairy stories tend to stay with us longest, and these are the stories in which I specialise. They are particularly redolent with archetypes – images that bridge the personal and the universal. These images, to paraphrase Clarissa Pinkola Estes, are like keys, setting our inner lives into motion. In the vehicle of a story they become more than mere images: they become energies, embedded with instructions which guide us through the complexities of life and show us what we may become – or how we may participate in the becoming of the world.
It is because of the resonance of these images, because of the archetypal energies they convey, that myth and story have such authority in informing our relationship with what we perceive to be ‘other’ – and in particular, our relationship with the natural world. It is also because a story is usually a metaphor, and the meaning of the word ‘metaphor’ derives from the Greek word for to ‘carry across’ – so in this sense, stories build bridges. Stories, for example, can show us what it is to have a balanced relationship with the land and with the other creatures that inhabit it along with us. They can show us what happens when we forget the importance of balance, because myths and stories can show us human interactions with the natural world in a way that demonstrates not just that we are interconnected but that we are interdependent. They can show us a world in which everything is animate in its own way. A world in which we can learn from everything: animal, plant, rock. Myths and stories help us to re-enchant the land, to see it not just as something that is valuable to us as a species, but as powerful and somehow sacred.
I don’t practice as a therapist any more, but I do still work with myth and story – in my work with groups and individuals for transformation, in writing, and in talks and performances. The ‘narrative ecopsychology’ courses that I offer (especially the four-month ‘Writing and Storytelling for Personal Development‘ course and the six-month intensive ‘Re-enchanting the Earth course‘) incorporate threads from my therapeutic practice as well as from similar courses that I was offering a decade ago as part of my then-business ‘Metamorphia’. In these courses we begin with personal myths and fairytales. We work through a variety of different creative techniques both to explore the story you’re living right now, and to help you write yourself into a transformative new story. We work deeply with existing stories, exploring and re-writing and re-telling, but perhaps most interestingly of all, we work on creating new stories that are uniquely your own.
You can see what else is going on over at the ‘Courses‘ page. And if you’d like to contact me about any of this work, please do email me at sharon[at]reenchantingtheearth[dot]com.
Articles & Resources
In an article called ‘Re-storying the Earth: Listening to the Land’s Dreaming’ in EarthLines magazine Issue 1, May 2012, I write in some detail about some of the ways in which myths and stories can help connect people with the natural world. You can read the article here: http://www.earthlines.org.uk/Assets/Text,%20pdfs/BlackieHirons.pdf
A couple of older articles on this blog have explored some of these issues: