Living Your Great Story
A Journey of Discovery
by Rita Priestley
Several years ago, I heard Buffy Sainte-Marie describe how she became a member of the Sesame Street cast. Producers from the show initially approached her with an idea. Rejecting the stereotypes imbedded in the producers' proposal, she turned down their offer. “People only wanted to see me as an 'Indian' singer',” she said. “I am really a teacher. I put my lesson plans in songs like Universal Soldier.”
The producers returned with other offers—more time, more money. She declined. Finally, in frustration, they asked, “What DO you want?” Buffy laid out conditions for her involvement.
Explaining the meaning of her story, Buffy stated that each of us is born with a unique gift. It is our task to define that gift and share it. She admonished us not to expect others to knock on our doors, asking for our gift. While many might come knocking, few would ask for the right gift. It is up to each of us, she said, to be clear about our own gift and to bring it forward into the world.
It is five years since my mother passed away. Three months before she died, I was sadly reminded of Buffy's story when, out of the blue, my mother said, “You know, you'd like to think your life mattered. That it meant something.” Speaking of her own gift, my mother said, “It never seemed like much of a gift. I never knew what to do with it.”
How do we determine our unique gift, our life purpose? And how do we bring it forward into the world? The search for our gift is a journey of discovery. Maps for the journey can be found in eight “Great Stories,” or archetypes. Each of us can find identity and fulfillment in one or two of these Great Stories. If we act in accordance with our Great Story, we are able to actualize our gifts and our lives are graced with meaning and purpose.
What are these Great Stories? Four of them—Mother, Father, Companion, and Seeker—are personal archetypes. Those with lives grounded in these Great Stories find identity and fulfillment through people. The other four—Amazon, Warrior, Mediatrix, and Sage—are impersonal archetypes. People who identify with the impersonal Great Stories find identity and fulfillment in the outer world or in the realm of ideas.
The Great Stories of Mother and Father provide identity and fulfillment through doing FOR people—nurturing, protecting, and caring for others. Mothers and Fathers are guardians of tradition and the values of past generations. They are stewards of the family, the community, and the organization. Security, status, and social position matter to them. Safeguarding the collective, they may ignore the needs of individuals.
The Great Stories of Companion and Seeker provide identity and fulfillment in doing WITH people. Companions and Seekers explore life and discover who they are through relationships. They companion others intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. They challenge tradition, encouraging family, friends, and co-workers to explore new ideas and unconventional ways of doing things. They may put the needs of individuals before the good of the collective.
The Great Stories of Amazon and Warrior provide identity and fulfillment through accomplishment. Amazons and Warriors are energized by managing the outer world. Relationships, family, and organizations are subordinate to the fulfillment provided by challenge and conquest. Amazons and Warriors are focused and independent, with a keen nose for power.
The Great Stories of Mediatrix and Sage provide identity and fulfillment through the articulation of material from the unconscious or from the world of ideas. The Mediatrix has access to information from the unconscious. She just “knows” things she cannot logically know. The Sage lives in the realm of ideas and theories, energized by understanding and explaining the world.
When we identify our Great Story we realize it shapes our beliefs, attitudes, values, motivations, and behaviours. The Great Stories underpin communications, relationships, family and group dynamics, team behaviour, work environment, and organizational culture.
Naming our own Great Story is the first step in identifying our unique gift. Living in accordance with our Great Story we actualize our potential and lead an authentic life. Understanding the Great Stories of others enables us to appreciate their gifts and work with them more effectively.
Toni Wolff, Irene Claremont de Castillo, and Edward Whitmont were the first to describe the eight Great Stories. Tad and Noreen Guzie brought a contemporary focus to the work of these Jungian writers. The wisdom of the Great Stories has enriched all areas of my life—shedding light on family dynamics, relationships with friends and co-workers, and interactions at board room tables. It has helped me grow in discernment. When others come knocking on my door, like Buffy St. Marie, I am better equipped to know which offers to decline and which offers to accept.
I claim my Great Story. I am committed to actualizing it. I do so in tribute to my mother.
Have you identified your unique gift? Are you bringing it forward into the world? What are your sources of identity and fulfillment? What gives meaning to your life? What are your greatest accomplishments? Your regrets? Do you say, “Yes,” when you should say, “No”? Would you like to enrich your relationships? Would you like to live a more authentic life? Are you following your “bliss”? An exploration of the eight Great Stories is key to answering these questions.
Rita Priestley is an organizational consultant and process facilitator. A member of the Veriditas Labyrinth Facilitator Network, a Reiki practitioner, and qualified facilitator of the MBTI and KAI, Rita works with individuals, groups, and organizations to actualize potential. With colleagues Margaret Delainey, Elaine Elliott, and Linda Leier, she is offering a weekend workshop entitled, “Living Your Great Story”, at Queen's House, Saskatoon, April 7–9. For information contact Rita: firstname.lastname@example.org or (306) 931-7302, and see the display ad on page 11 of the 11.6 March/April
issue of the WHOLifE Journal.