Mijares, S. (2012). Fragmented self, archetypal forces and the embodied mind: Dissociative and
re-associative processes. Saarbrücken,Germany: Lap Lambert Academic Publishing.
Creating a New Story
Group Process for Women Molested as Children
The following procedure was designed to help adults who were incested or molested as children. Many trauma survivors are fixated in the trauma, and "immersed in a naturalistic, albeit self-devaluing, trance" (Gilligan, 1988, p. 328). This experiential journey encourages each participant in the group to experience a therapeutic ritual providing a passageway into a new identity (Gilligan, in S. Gilligan and R. Price, Eds., 1993). The design was inspired from processes described in the book Personal mvthology (Feinstein & Krippner, 1988).
Attitude to hold: The Wounded Healer
The ritual honors both the "old story" (the past) while welcoming a "new story" (the future) and gives participants an opportunity to value both these elements in their (present) life circumstances.
Magazines (for collage images), large poster boards, colored markers, glue, pens, paper, scissors, feathers, felt pieces, etc.
The Old Story. Facilitator and group members discuss the past and how it is currently affecting their lives. The project is described to the group. It is explained that the group will be involved with this project during the next month as it will take a few weeks and also some of their time at home.
The group discusses what it means to have a "story" about yourself and how this belief system can dominate one’s life. The idea that each person can create a new story is presented and discussed. How would their lives be different as a result. Is there a there a goal they feel they would have liked to achieve and didn't believe it possible? Have each member name this goal.
Facilitator explains the themes of "Paradise," Paradise lost," "the Vision," and "Paradise Regained" (Feinstein & K.rippner, 1988). The participants will be creating a shield from the poster board. This personal shield is similar to what Native Americans use for protection, healing and reverence. The shield will have four portions, one for each of the four themes.
The facilitator explains that "Paradise represents a time(s) in your infancy and/or childhood when you experienced a sense of well-being. For example, a baby enjoys the pleasure of reaching toward a colorful object. Its whole being is involved in the goal. A young child can be enraptured by a butterfly...or petting a puppy. Even though you might find it difficult to remember a pleasant moment in your childhood I am sure that you have bad one as children are naturally very creative and they want to experience life." Facilitator encourages and gently stays present with this exercise until each member has found a positive remembrance or association. The group then shares their experience, including any difficulties in doing this.
Ask group members to relax and take several deep breaths and say, "Now look at the portion in your shield that you have chosen to represent paradise. In a moment you will be asking your inner self helper to assist you in finding the most appropriate image for you to remind you of a happy, pleasant childhood experience. Take a look at the portion representing “paradise lost,” In a moment you will be asking your inner self helper to assist you in find a symbolic representation of that aspect of your life. It could be could be associated with the sexual abuse or another disturbing aspect of your childhood."
Considering there is agreement that each member would like to create a new message about herself and take part in this experience, the facilitator proceeds by discussing the inner self-helper (ISH) and asks if anyone has an awareness of this inner guide. Facilitator adds that some people may sense it as the soul, old wise woman or man, spiritual being, a pleasant color or feeling or as an actual inner sense of guidance. The facilitator then proceeds to guide them in a visualization experience (letting members know they may keep their eyes open if they are uncomfortable closing them).
"Take a long, deep breath in, feel it as energy moving through your body...relax as you exhale a long, deep breath out. Continuing to relax every muscle as you take that long, deep breath in and release that long, deep breath out...Bring to mind persons you have known or heard of who inspired you because of things they had had done or how they live their lives. This might include someone you knew in the past, or read of in a book, or even know right now. Focus on this person or these persons. What is it about them that appeals to you? Continue to breathe as you reflect upon these thoughts and feelings. Feel your appreciation. Now be aware of your vulnerabilities and your need for instruction and protection in both your inner and outer life. Resolve now to take a journey to learn new things. Your endeavors are earning you the right the right to gain new understandings...Notice your feelings and your sensations. As you do this I want you to begin to visualize a beautiful forest. Notice the colors. Perhaps you can hear the sounds of nature ...birds...a nearby babbling brook...smell the rich earth...feel the warmth of the sun upon you.
You are walking along a path. This journey is taking you to a sacred grove. As you travel along this path you pass by a monument. The beliefs that have governed your life up to now are written on it. Read one or two and consider them. Moving beyond the monument, you find yourself climbing upward on the path until you find yourself on a "stone prominence overlooking the valley of your youth. Your sight and hearing are strong and you feel compassion as you survey the emotional world of your childhood. Without faltering, consider the terrors, deprivations, confusions and blessings of your early years. Do not flinch or condemn, for your task is to affirm your stamina in having survived" (Feinstein & Krippner, 1988).
Continuing to move along the path...notice the colors and the green trees...the different sizes and types of trees...until you notice that the trees are forming an archway. You have come to the sacred grove. This is where you will meet your inner guide. Take another long, deep breath in and slowly release a long deep breath out as you walk through the archway. As you do this you begin to see…or feel…. or sense in your way in your way...the presence of this inner guide. This guide is here to help you with your project. Feel the affection and bond between you. She...or he...will be with you as you survey the old story...You can receive creative instruction whenever you need it. Ask your inner guide now for a symbol representing the "paradise" part of your life. You may see it as an object, or you may see an actual scene or hear it as a word or phrase. You might just feel it. Be aware of the bond between you and this inner self-helper as you have this experience.
Now ask your inner guide for a symbol representing "paradise lost". Again, you may see it as an object, or you may see an actual scene or hear it as a word or phrase. You might just feel it. Be very aware of the bond between you and your inner guide as you have this experience. Feel a sense of honoring your pain. Not getting lost in it...but compassionately understanding it...while remaining aware of your inner guide's love and understanding as you observe the symbol representing that aspect of your life journey.
Ask your inner guide how you may create a ritual of return so that you may receive inspiration and guidance whenever you need it, especially as you work on creating a new story of your life. Now offering your appreciation it is time to take leave. Take three long, deep breaths. With the third breath you will feel yourself returning to this room, refreshed, renewed and at peace.
The group is silent a moment as each person reflects upon their experience and writes down the highlights.
Now the group members can find appropriate magazine pictures, drawings (or use photos) to fill in the "paradise" and "paradise lost" portions of their shield. The group atmosphere should be one of thoughtfulness and support.
During the following week the members will each write a fairy tale representing the "Oid Story." It will start with a "Once upon a time..." Encourage each member to not write an objective description.
Each member shows the paradise and paradise lost portions of their shields to the group and then reads the old story. The facilitator then asks the person to describe the belief she formed about herself as a result of the old story. For example, "I am worthless" or "I am unlovable" or "I did something wrong." The group listens, acknowledges and shares the experience.
Note: Facilitators: You may find some of this language helpful before proceeding with the Vision instructions. It has some good languaging…
The Vision: The facilitator explains that this next portion gives them the opportunity to look at their dreams, ideals and goals. The group members hold up the shield and look at the portion representing "the Vision."
The facilitator asks them to "Imagine your life as though you can create whatever you want. You re-write your past, your present and your future...Let go of any images or feelings about the old story...for a moment enjoy the pleasure of pretending…or allowing yourself to visualize in your own way this ideal life in which you fulfill your goal.”
The group members may have trouble with this. They've been bound by the "old story" for most of their lives and rarely contemplate other possibilities. Have the group members discuss this. The facilitator stays with the intention. "Yes, it is understandable that you feel that way. But for this exercise you can pretend, or imagine something different..."
The facilitator then uses creative imagination to invoke the guidance of the inner self helper. In their trance they return to the sacred grove to receive a symbol representing the vision portion of their shield. The group members take a moment to take notes before finding the pictures for this portion of the shield.
During the next week a new fairy tale will be written. This fairy tale also begins with "Once upon a time..." The facilitator re-emphasizes that no abuse occurred in this fairy tale. They are to create their own lives according to their own ideals. The group members may have trouble with this. In fact, this may take a couple of sessions as it has the potential to bring up opposition and self-defeating thoughts in some of the group members. For this reason, it is quite valuable to help each member have this experience. If someone is having difficulty visualizing or fantasizing a positive life, ask her how she would feel if it was one of the other group members. Most likely, she would see the positive vision and goal as quite possible for the other person. Explain the same experience is possible for her. The group members will be of help to one another during this stage.
Each group member then shares this portion of the shield and the story in the following session. Group members have the experience of both listening to others while also sharing their own dreams and ideals. The facilitator asks each person what belief she holds about herself. themselves in this ideal life. For example, "I am confident" or "I am worthy" or "I am loved."
Paradise regained. This phase includes both the "old story" and "the vision." The facilitator asks what they've learned in writing up the old story. Can they see where they've acquired some depth, sensitivity, perseverance in the midst of the pain and trauma? What other things have they acquired as a result of the old story? After the group discusses this, the facilitator will explain that the old story and the vision represent elements of the past and potentialities within the future. Now the group is going to find a meeting place within their present lives.
The group members are now instructed to look at the "New Story" portion of the shield and to prepare themselves for finding the symbols and pictures representing this part of the journey.
They are now meditatively prepared to return to the sacred grove. Following relaxation induction, the facilitator asks each member to see or to feel themselves walking along a path in nature. The facilitator emphasizes a sensory awareness of this journey to the sacred grove.
"See the path before you. Notice the various sizes and types of trees. Perhaps you can smell the rich earth or the scent of trees...and hear the sounds of birds or leaves gently blowing. Moving along the path you can feel the warmth of the sun. It feels comforting and assuring. Once again, you are approaching the sacred grove. You have arrived at the archway and perhaps you can feel a deep sense of expectation.
"In one hand you are holding a crystal ball. It holds all the images, feelings and thoughts representing the old story. (Go slowly and give them a moment to do this.) In the other hand you hold another crystal ball. It holds all the images, feelings and thoughts associated with the vision portion of your journey. See them, feel them or sense them now. (Give a moment to complete this.) We have discussed how the old siory has given you both blessings and pain. It is a part of who you are. The vision is also a part of you. It formed from your ideals, beliefs and goals.
"Now it is time to bring these crystal balls together as your hands touch at your solar plexus area. Visualize in your own way that the balls are blending into one larger crystal ball. Feel this happening in your hands as they physically come together and meet at your solar plexus. Look into this larger crystal ball as you feel the presence of your inner guide. A scene is forming within this crystal ball. It tells you something about your life one year from now as a result of the healing work you are now doing. See it, feel it or hear it as it forms. (Allow a moment to complete this.) Breathe this positive, empowering scene into your solar plexus. Observe as your inner self helper now guides you to experience a scene five years from now as a result of the healing work you are doing. Look deeply into the crystal ball. Again, breathe this scene into your solar plexus. Thank your inner guide for assistance. It is time to leave now. Make a vow to continue Now expand your awareness...if you have not done so already...and see, feel, hear the nature around you. Breathe it in and return to ordinary awareness with the next three breaths. One....two...three."
Have them write down their experience(s).
This experience provides the inspiration to fulfill the paradise regained portion of the shield. The intention gleaned from this process is for each participant to make a statement of positive affirmation about her life. This will be shared with and acknowledged by the group. To complete this project each group member will share her evolutionary experience of this shared journey. This final aspect of the project should be a powerful experience for all. The room can be prepared for the ritual, perhaps with incense, candles and meaningful objects brought by the group members.
Each member then shares her experience with the journey leading to the new story. The ritual can conclude with refreshments and the entire event should have an atmosphere of celebration. this bond of awareness.
Note: This project was inspired by exercises found in Personal mythology: The psychology of your evolving self. David Feinstein, Ph.D., & Stanley Krippner, Ph.D. (1988, Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc.).