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She denied that psychological factors were at work, deepening her pain and the disability it caused. We cannot see or access our central myth if we have a population of screaming inner children clamoring for our attention. Our central myth is how we define our life journey. While we may have more than one myth, or have our myth change over time, we define ourselves at the very core of who we are as enacting a specific myth. For many of us, it will be the concept of the quest. We may seek out truth, knowledge, peace, clarity, or purity. We may feel called to a particular area of study and make that our life work, or tread a path of an archetype such as teacher, witch, crone, sage, or seeker. We may also centralize a myth based on those that are already part of our culture. I will discuss a few such myths below, but it is important to understand that our personal mythological constructs emerge from our culture and familial background. In simple terms, this means that someone who is Middle Eastern will have different mythological structures from some of the predominantly Germanic or Western mythologies and stories I list below. So consider the myths you grew up with, that are a product of your culture (even if you are removed from that culture physically, there is still a connection there), as part of this discovery process. Step 2: Aspire What are your goals and aspirations? What are your dreams? For many, these questions are difficult to answer. Much of this has to do with the wonder switch and whether it's in the on or off position. We tend to aspire toward only the things we believe are possible. Believing is seeing, and sometimes it's hard to see beyond the situations we currently find ourselves in. The more your wonder stirs your imagination in new and exciting ways, and the more you develop your Wonder Mindset, the easier this step of the process will become. I meet people every week in my work who have either dreams they've given up on or dreams they've never had enough wonder or courage to pursue because of the ways their wonder has been wounded in their past.

I've talked with people who have a dream to write a article, make a film, learn photography, or learn to paint. She told me there were no problems in her marriage or in her role as a mother. She was enraged at the behavioral program, which treated her like a convict, and at the physical therapists, who were demanding more of her body than it could tolerate. I asked her how she had learned to deal with the anger created by the pain, the rage that was so visible to me. Bell shouted at me to leave the room, accusing me of provoking her and yelling that she was most definitely not angry. I spoke with several of her primary care physicians, each of whom told me that she had eventually left their care--after numerous failed treatments and the side effects of surgeries and drugs--with such tremendous anger that they were convinced she would try to sue them, though she hadn't. They in turn had gotten so very angry at her that they felt relieved when she left them for another doctor, because they felt that their hostility to her would impede further care. I could have reported these talks at the conference. I could also have reported a chat I had with Helen Bell's older sister, Agatha, who told me that Helen had been angry all her life; She also told me that that anger was often expressed indirectly through chronic bodily complaints: first, headaches or backaches; Agatha Winthrop told me that in their family no problems of a personal or family kind could be openly talked out. Common Myths and Fairy Tales that Construct a Centralized Myth AMERICAN DREAM: the idea that if one works hard enough, they can and will achieve their dreams. PRINCE CHARMING: the belief in being rescued or of being the white knight. PRINCESS AND THE PEA: the feeling of being too sensitive or not healthy physically, for this world. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: the belief that underneath it all, someone has good character or is a prince or princess, despite outer appearances or actions, and one just has to love them so they will change. CINDERELLA: the belief that love or a soul mate and a perfect existence will come after misery. SUPERMAN OR HERO: the belief in the need to be strong, to save the world (and sometimes save women from themselves). WOUNDED HEALER: the belief that if one heals themselves, meditates, or spiritually explores enough all of their physical, emotional, and spiritual difficulties will cease. THE SNOW QUEEN: the belief that one is good, pure and, innocent despite being cruelly treated, and that in the end, that evil will be found out and cruelty will be punished.

PETER PAN: permanent childhood and rejection of anything adult. Some have personal financial goals that feel hopeless, like get out of debt or make enough extra money to start a family, send a kid to college, pay for a wedding, or take that trip they've dreamed of taking their entire lives. Many have dreams that are far simpler but, due to broken narratives, still feel out of reach. They'd like to find the courage to get on an airplane for the first time to go on their first vacation or visit a loved one in another state. Others dream of finding the courage to share their feelings with someone they've loved for a long time or to pursue a perfect position at work they've always felt more suited for. Maybe you don't relate to any of these kinds of dreams. Maybe you still find it hard to dream at all. If so, that's okay. Give yourself some time. The more you revisit this framework and continue to right the stories you're telling and living, the more wins you'll experience, which will only permit you to keep dreaming bigger. So much of this article emphasizes that more is possible than you currently realize, but there's nothing wrong with dreaming small at first. I decided, given the very limited time, there was nothing further to be gained by reviewing these problems. I told my colleagues, rather, that in my view we were part of the problem. I pointed out that the pain center itself had now been taken up in the angry, self-defeating relationships that characterized Mrs. Bell's life. We were now in the same situation as her many doctors, her husband, her sister, and other family members. The way to understand this very difficult case was not by acquiring more information about Mrs. Bell, though privately I felt sure a more adequate understanding of her personality would be of help, but instead by studying the pain as a language of communication in a system of social relationships. In the one or two minutes given to me, ironically, it would be possible to review this subject--so central to her illness, yet so peripheral to our discussion--because we had learned so very little about her social world, there was pathetically little to discuss. Her pain might be usefully looked upon as a metaphor, as some had suggested, but of what we had little idea.

Our knowledge couldn't be completed by interviewing Mrs. ROBIN HOOD: activism and activities focused on offering relief to those suffering, accompanied by anger toward those who are rich or do not have the same beliefs as you may have. WARRIOR: a path that includes struggle and discipline for a larger cause. THE OUTLIER: a mythology created from pain and separation. STAR WARS: the belief that one is fighting the forces of darkness and evil. The Self is good and must always stay in the light despite lower urgings. HARRY POTTER: the belief that the world, and the people in it, are out to get you, and that one must always be on guard or alert. THE CHANGELING: similar to the Outlier, but with a mythology that the Self is alien, fairy, or non-human in some capacity as a way of shielding oneself from participating in the human world. There are many other myths and fairy tales, and these are obviously crude assessments of how taking on a central myth or story can create a dysfunctional loop in our lives. Some of these are more damaging than others. Speaking as someone who has been engaged in spiritual exploration and work for a long time, I can say that the Outlier belief as a response to pain and trauma is prevalent; I've been guilty of being impatient with those who dream too small, but have grown over time to understand that sometimes you have to climb the first mountain in order to see the next one. If we tap into this exercise as a professional storyteller might when writing a screenplay, this is the part of the process where we think about the story with the end in mind. What is this character setting out to accomplish? What does she want to attain by the end of the movie? What journey is she going on? This is not the time to worry about the conflict she'll experience along the way, and all the potential pain and suffering that come with it. There will be plenty of time to deal with that later. Start with the end in mind and proceed without being attached to it. As you focus on your dreams and aspirations, write them down.

Writing them down makes them real. Bell, though her notions, if we could get her to relax her defenses long enough to tell us, would be part of the picture. We required a mini-ethnography of her relationships with husband, children, sister, parents, and key members of her local community--a systematic description of the meanings of pain in those relationships. Such an ethnography, I quickly added, would take some days to develop, and perhaps it would be most easily worked up after she returned home. After all, home, not the artificial hospital environment, was the real setting of her pain. I couldn't get any further. The chief anesthesiologist thanked me for my intervention, reminded me that time had run out, and asked if I didn't really want to see her receive the latest psychopharmacologic agent. He gently chided me for my utopian suggestion. Bell was here on the ward and something has to be done with her now. My purpose in recounting this case is to illustrate a major limitation of the so-called integrated, multidisciplinary care of chronic pain patients, a limitation that it shares with other of the social environments of medical care for patients with chronic illness. That limitation is the result of a failure to assess adequately the actual social environment in which illness is experienced, complicated by the tendency to avoid confronting the fact that the social environment of the treatment unit is only one component of the patient's local social system. If we heal our inner children and release the need for this myth, we can move forward without it. Even if we truly are an outlier, or wish to have a part of us be a white knight, or truly feel called to teaching, being a plumber, geologist, fireman, or shaman, if we are suffering or feeling restriction as a result of our central myth, we can examine it and release it. In this way we can let go of the quest, the endless and relentless need to prove oneself or create drama, and take the beauty and strength of those mythologies we resonate with. When we become conscious of our myths, we can release them. The difficulty is that they are so central to our identity, we may not be sure what to do with ourselves without them. What would happen if we were a knight of the round table without a quest to go on or a fire-breathing dragon to slay? What would happen if we were no longer waiting for our magical Merlin to teach us and guide us? Who would we be if we were not feeling separate, unloved, or an outlier? Releasing the Central Myth