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The Stories We Loved As Children Contain Clues for Our Soul.

The Stories We Loved As Children Contain Clues for Our Soul. | Annie Wright, LMFT | www.anniewright.com

What do “Baby Boom”, “Miss Rumphius”, and “The Country Bunny And The Little Gold Shoes” Have To Do With Your Life?…

…Very possibly nothing. But they have everything to do with my own life.

You see, I’ve been thinking lately about the power of stories and the profound influence and guidance the stories we passionately loved as children can have even in our adult lives.

I’ve particularly been curious about how, in times of confusion, not-knowing, deep questioning, and despair, if we reflect on and re-explore the stories we loved as kids, we might find diamonds in the mud — clues and messages and guidance for our souls that can support us when we’re having a tough time.

In today’s blog I want to share more with you about how those three stories – “Baby Boom”, “Miss Rumphius”, and “The Country Bunny With the Golden Shoes” – have played a profound role in shaping my life and how they continue to provide guidance when the way forward feels particularly foggy for me.

The Stories We Loved As Children Contain Clues for Our Soul. | Annie Wright, LMFT | www.anniewright.com

The Stories We Loved As Children Contain Clues for Our Soul.

I also want to walk you through some inquiries to help you reflect on your beloved childhood stories and explore some of the messages and meaning these stories may have for you, even today…

The Power of Stories.

Stories are an entry point to the soul.

Stories – whether in film, book, audio or oral form – have been, since time immemorial, one of the primary ways we as humans have learned how to be, how to live, how we’ve received guidance about what life is, and how we can skillfully navigate it.

Stories have this incredible way of bypassing our rational, logical, ego-driven minds and speaking straight to the soul.

Stories are, in my opinion, psyche medicine and life guidance of the highest order.

While it’s rare for communities and families to sit around campfires today and pass on oral instructional stories, we can see that this kind of storytelling/soul instruction persists around the veritable campfire of movie screens and in our collective Netflix queues.

For instance, I’m guessing you – like I – maybe once or twice have gone to the movies and, for a few hours, really identified with that superhero or that post-Apocalyptic badass heroine on screen, so much so that when we left the theatre we felt filled with some of the nerve and grit and steely determination of Katniss Everdeen, or Hermione Granger, or Tris Prior or [fill in the blank]. Am I right?

That experience of fully identifying with a character, of getting swept up in a story is powerful and also deeply nourishing and instructional for our souls — particularly for those of us who grew up in homes where they wasn’t exactly an abundance of loving or helpful guidance from the adults in the our lives.

“Stories are wonderful vehicles for images, feelings, atmosphere, and depth because they lead the readers or the audience to identify with and learn from the characters.” – Jean Shinola Bolen, MD

Childhood Touchstones.

While stories are powerful and important for us at all ages, it’s the stories we passionately loved as children that I think can be particularly helpful to explore when we’re feeling stuck, overwhelmed, and filled with despair in life.

Whether it was a book, a movie, a TV episode or series, or even a fairytale you learned about from a friend or teacher, they are, I believe, certain stories that just *stick* with us as kids. Stories that just seem to strongly impact us for no logical, rational reason.

These are the childhood stories we want to explore to support us when life feels particularly tough.

“Fairy tales are more than true – not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.” – Neil Gaiman

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on how, from ages 8 to 13, I was passionate about three stories — two books and one movie: “Miss Rumphius” by Barbara Cooney, “The Country Bunny and the Little Golden Shoes” by DuBose Heyward, and the movie Baby Boom starring Diane Keaton.

On the surface these stories had virtually nothing in common: a onetime globetrotting, now-partially disabled eccentric old woman who walked the Maine coast flinging about lupine seeds; a mother bunny of 18 who worked her (cotton) tail off to become one of the kingdom’s elite Easter Bunnies; and a Harvard/Yale MBA corporate “Tiger Lady” who becomes guardian to an orphaned niece and opts out of the NYC Rat Rat to move to the New England countryside and discovers she’s a whiz at making baby applesauce.

But there are key threads and lessons woven throughout these three stories that then – as now – touch my soul deeply and which provide guidance for me even today.

These stories showed me that:

  1. It is more than possible for a woman to do and achieve more than “only” being a mother;
  2. If she is very creative and persistent, a woman can craft a flourishing life on her own terms – irregardless of the opinions of others;
  3. Self-confidence and following intuition to create said life is key;
  4. When carving out a non-traditional life path, you may not always be understood, supported, or respected. Do it anyways.

As a child I passionately loved these stories and, despite the fact that I wasn’t seeing these lessons modeled very successfully by others in my real life, the stories told me that these things were possible and that one day they could be available to me, too.

Today, when life feels tough, I still turn back to these books and films for a kind of soul pick-me-up, to connect back to the messages they contain, like checking a proverbial compass of sorts as I journey through my life facing my own metaphorical dragons.

Finding Your Own Diamonds in the Mud.

Now it’s your turn. I want to invite you to reflect on the following inquiries to explore the childhood stories you passionately loved and to examine whether or not the messages they contained still have clues for you today.

  • What books, films, fairy-tales or stories did you passionately attach to as a child (between ages 5-15)?
  • What was the meaning of each of those stories for you? What are some of the lessons (whether implicit or explicit) that those stories taught you?
  • Did you see yourself in one or more of the characters? What qualities and characteristics of those figures did you most admire? Can you see those qualities in yourself today?
  • How did these stories shape or give hope to you as a kid? Are there any lessons in them that are still helpful to you even today?
  • If you didn’t like the ending of any of those stories or movies, can you imagine rewriting it? How would you like to author the ending with the power of a do-over?

Onwards.

“Though fairy tales end after ten pages, our lives do not. We are multi-volume sets. In our lives, even though one episode amounts to a crash and burn, there is always another episode awaiting us and then another. There are always more opportunities to get it right, to fashion our lives in the ways we deserve to have them. Don’t waste your time hating a failure. Failure is a greater teacher than success.” ― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, PhD

I love this quote by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. When I read it, I feel empowered to author and re-author the story of my life as often as I need and want to.

And so, as we wrap up today, I invite you to consider what you would like to author in the next chapter or volume or episode of your life and also to consider how and what the clues and messages of your very favorite childhood stories might influence, guide, support, nourish and soothe you.

Finally, please share in the comments below the stories you most loved as a child and what some of the lessons and messages and “diamonds in the mud” they provided for you.

I can’t wait to read what you share!

If you would like additional support right now and you live in California or Florida, please feel free to reach out to me directly to explore therapy together.

Or if you live outside of these states, please consider enrolling in the waitlist for the Relational Trauma Recovery School – or my signature online course, Hard Families, Good Boundaries, designed to support you in healing your adverse early beginnings and create a beautiful adulthood for yourself, no matter where you started out in life.

And until next time, please take very good care of yourself. You’re so worth it.

Warmly, Annie

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  1. sheila wilensky on  

    Stories are everything! I’ve been reading about getting “older” and greatly identifying with wanting our lives to be stories of meaning and caring — stories we can die with.

    As usual, we’re on the same page dear Annie! This is an inspiring post. Thank you.

    • Annie on  

      Sheila,

      It’s so lovely to hear from you and to know that the post resonates. I love the point you raise: how the stories we read (or revisit) at each age may hold different meanings and messages for us over time. And I’d love to know what you’ve been reading if you care to share. 🙂

      Thank you for stopping by to comment!

      Warmly, Annie

  2. Holly on  

    When I gained the independence of reading on my own I remember going to the library and pulling story after story of the same character off the shelf: Amelia Bedelia. Although she completely misinterpreted people’s words (which actually frustrated me at the time) and never failed to make messy mistakes, her stories always ended on the bright side. Perhaps the mishaps made her more endearing and human to me. Now I look at this character and think maybe it is her ability to smile once the mistake is realized that makes her absurdly literal translation forgivable. Which gives me hope, and something to think about, as I go about with everyday interactions and the occasional miscommunication that always seems inevitable as I grapple with learning the ins and outs of healthy relationships.

    • Annie on  

      What a beautiful share, Holly. I remember those books, too, and love your perspective: “maybe it is her ability to smile once the mistake is realized that makes her absurdly literal translation forgivable.” Amelia Bedelia was a perfectly imperfect character, wasn’t she? Thank you so much for sharing so beautifully and vulnerably.

  3. Carol on  

    Books have always been a refuge for me. Growing up in a chaotic and violent household perhaps led me to gravitate toward stories about families. For a little while I could pretend to be in a place where parents didn’t yell or hit their kids, where brothers and sisters got along with each other. My first and favorite book has always been Mystery in the Pirate Oak by Helen Fuller Orton. It’s a simple story line, but it’s the first book I remember wanting to live in. I still have the same dog-eared copy I had as a child. There have been hundreds of books that have been meaningful to me along this life journey, yet this book is a constant on my bedside table. Whenever I reread it, I see the scared seven year old climbing up an oak tree to read it. Books and stories can have a huge impact on our lives. Thank you Annie for another thoughtful post.

    • Annie on  

      Thank you for sharing this, Carol. I’m sorry that you had to go through that kind of pain and yet I am so glad books were able to provide a refuge of sorts for you and, it sounds like, provide you with different possibilities of what families could look like. That — the ability to see something different modeled — is so important because it helps us to imagine that might be possible for us, too. It’s a cliche line but the old saying “you can’t be what you can’t see” comes to mind. For me, too, in those childhood stories I loved, I saw something different modeled and it’s helped me a great deal. Thank you so much for sharing so openly. Warmly, Annie

  4. Jeff on  

    Awesome Annie! This has been on my mind the last few weeks – what childhood stories did I fall in love with? Which ones am I particularly still drawn to? And are they trying to tell me something, perhaps reveal the buried treasure within my soul? What is the archetype that may be either over-developed or under-developed? How do I practice discernment in between a fantasy driven by ego and a heartfelt intention or driven by deeper essence? So truly therapeutic to start this dialogue with oneself and perhaps with others. Thank you for the great reminder.

    • Annie on  

      Jeff,

      Thank you for your wonderful and rich comment! I love the additional inquiries you pose:

      “Are [stories] trying to tell me something, perhaps reveal the buried treasure within my soul? What is the archetype that may be either over-developed or under-developed? How do I practice discernment in between a fantasy driven by ego and a heartfelt intention or driven by deeper essence?”

      Such wonderful questions to sit with. And I love how you make the link that by reflecting on stories we can deepen our dialogue with ourselves and with others. I find this to be very true in my own life, too.

      So glad you stopped by to comment.

      Warmly, Annie

  5. Jayne Coleman on  

    I’m a lifelong reader of books and stories have shaped me in many ways. Thinking back to that period of my life and the stories I read over and over, My Friend Flicka, Little Women and Douglas Bader’s autobiography, Reach For the Sky, I realise that they were all about bravery, about people who did not fit into the norm, who had to overcome great obstacles. I am the eldest of five children and when I was 7 my mom slipped down stairs and broke her back. She was horizontal for six months so I became her arms and legs for my younger siblings. Sometimes I was really frightened or scared about what might happen. I think now that I needed those stories to help me realise that even if really bad things happen one can overcome them with courage and bravery and by keeping on when things are really tough. Books were my escape and joy. Even though I have battled with generalised anxiety disorder and panic attacks, been in and out of therapy for years, this article touched a chord and helped me realise something new about why I loved reading and certain books. Thank you very much for sharing this.

    • Annie on  

      Jayne,

      I’m very touched by your comment. Thank you for sharing so vulnerably and richly. I’m moved to hear that this article touched a chord for you.

      I resonate strongly with what you shared:

      “I think now that I needed those stories to help me realise that even if really bad things happen one can overcome them with courage and bravery and by keeping on when things are really tough.”

      That was a key lesson for me, too, in my childhood reading. I’m so glad we both had models and examples of what resilience, overcoming, and possibility could be.

      Thank you so much for sharing. I really appreciate your comment.

      Warmly, Annie

  6. Jayne Coleman on  

    Well my parents are still around – they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on 11th July and my Dad his 90th birthday on the 30th July. My mom in particular has had to deal with enormous health issues throughout her life and never thought to make 82 years but does it with humour and a will of steel despite living in pain every single day. My dad is so caring and loving to her it is a wonder to see. So I have had the best examples of resilience and survival along with the great blessing of their love and encouragement. This might not directly deal with your article but I think that reading has helped me to understand many challenges and difficulties in my life and when someone asks for advice I always have a book to recommend to them. Thanks so much for the feedback

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