“Our experience quite literally is defined by our assumptions about life. We make stories about the world and to a large degree live out their plots. What our lives are like depends to a great extent on the script we consciously, or more likely, unconsciously, have adopted.”
Carol S. Pearson (The Hero Within)
Most of us, though not all, were born into families. Within that microcosm, we were assigned, almost always unconsciously, a role to play within the family. We spend the rest of our lives, unless we come to consciousness and truly want to change, living out of that role—recreating it in our own families and in our relationships with others. That role defines our orientation to life itself—be it the hero, the martyr, the warrior, the orphan, the wanderer, the innocent, or perhaps, the eternal child. If my role in the family was that of hero, I will view all challenges as dragons to be slain, obstacles to be overcome. I will wear myself out taking on more than I can handle, and attempting the impossible. Sometimes, I succeed, which spurs me on to more. I must be the best at everything I do, or I am an utter failure; there is no middle ground.
If my role is the orphan, I will live to find comfort and belonging, and what I find is never sufficient to my needs. I will try person after person, relationship after relationship, spa after spa in an effort to find the tender touch of home I feel I never had. I will always see myself as being left out and abandoned. If my role in the family was martyr, I will give up essential parts of myself in order to feel that I am fulfilling my obligations. My energy will always go outward; spent for the sake of others and good causes. I will, in fact, do far more than anyone needs or wants.
For every role, there is an up side and a down side. Who doesn't want to be a hero? We admire and respect successful people, we hold them up as models, and generations of young people attempt to emulate their feats. But when they fall, they fall hard. Our expectations are enormously high, and our disappointment dangerously low. A good martyr is essential to practically every non-profit organization on earth. Someone who will give their heart and soul to a cause often becomes the hero that cause, usually at the expense of their own health and well being. Orphans gather huge communities of caring people around them, all of whom knock themselves out trying to provide that individual, and one another with a sense of belonging. The eternal child is one who never loses his sense of play, his freedom to laugh and entertain. He's fun to be around, but don't expect him to take responsibility for his actions, or ever be the adult in the room.
There are many story roles we can play in the world if we choose. All of them have pros and cons, but sooner or later, we need to bring balance to each of them. The only way to do that is to make them conscious, and for that, we take a good long look at how we view life. What is our perception of how the world operates? What is an honest appraisal of how we maintain the role we were assigned in our family? How are we living it out today? Taking on this process of discovery doesn't have to be a burden, but it will require some work. Consider yourself a detective in your own life—Sherlock-you. This book, The Hero Within, by Carol Pearson, first published in 1986, might be a good piece of research material for your exploration.
In the Spirit,