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ThemeWork

A Five-step Method to Overcome Blocks
and Live from Personal Strength

If you want to change your life, change your story.

We humans are narrative creatures hardwired to make stories of our experience. Those stories color our perception, seed our expectations, guide our behavior and have the power to self-fulfill. For this reason we need positive self-stories that are just, compassionate, forward-looking and true.

Such stories encourage and inspire. But what happens when our self-stories are regressive, emotionally toxic, or just mildly skewed? Such stories hold us back even when the rational mind 'knows better.' They make it hard to overcome, forgive, let go, move on or succeed.

Why do we cling to old stories as if our life depended on it?

The answer is in our genes. For millennia the survival of our species depended on learning from experience and forming memorable narratives around lessons learned. Our preliterate ancestors retained and passed on crucial knowledge through hunting, gathering, fishing and navigational tales. The how-to of paddling from Fiji to Maui was first a momentous feat captured in neural memory, then replayed, enhanced, linked to like memories over time, and enhanced some more before it became lore to be passed on orally to family and clan. Narrative, it turns out, is our native means for storing what we need to know. Story keeps well in long-term memory.

Personal stories grow over a lifetime. They involve implicit and explicit memory in conscious and unconscious processes at the cellular level of our being. Charged emotional experiences secure a lasting place in our neural networks. As life progresses the mind sorts and links like experiences. Thematic data collect and form self-stories around related themes and these self-stories guide us from within.

When our self-stories are based in compelling truth, and when they follow a viably optimistic arc toward meaningful outcomes, then they help to energize and inspire us. They give energy and strength and can be felt to unify mind, body, emotion and spirit.

Think of Nelson Mandela’s long imprisonment. Much of what kept him strong was his robust self-story of hardship as an opportunity, pressure creating diamonds and each person’s duty to be his best self in order to create a better world. People who bounce back from trauma as Mandela did, are those with positive stories about themselves and their lives. People able to adapt and move forward update their stories as new information is reveiled. This updating occurrs natually, as our neurons are well equiped to make new connections. But they are also inclined to cling to old ways of thinking and knowing, and because of this we sometimes need to actively work at identifying our themes and reworking our story.

If you feel stuck, at odds with yourself, hemmed in or held back by fear; or if you complain about your situation but don’t change, Erica's ThemeWork approach can help. ThemeWork is a transformational model Erica developed over her thirty years as a therapist, storyteller and rights of passage leader. It employs evidence-based techniques including mindfullness and somatic processing, creative modalities such as journaling and biographical collage, and age-old methods of change such as divination, ritual, storytelling and prayer. Through the active use of these tools we engage in a five-fold process to:

1) Bring our old story to light, recognize how it lives within and identify its main themes.
2) Assess the old story for truth and accuracy, recognize how it got there and the purpose it once served. Identify how it's no longer working and assess our readiness/willingness to change it.
3) Activate compassion, acceptance, creativity, truthfullness and fun to move the story along, transforming it into one that is more encouraging and true.
4) Harvest the new meaning, the takeaway lesson, the emergent truth. Encapsulate it into a talsiman, a shield, a mission statement or a personal motto.
5) Begin living the new story, taking action steps toward change, embodying new meaning to make it count in everyday life.

To facilitate the five steps Erica uses a combination of the following:

• Breath-centered memory techniques
• Inner wisdom dialogue
• Heart-centered coherence practice
• Loving kindness to self
• Life phase timeline
• Journal writing / drawing
• Self-activation techniques

To support the client during the ThemeWork process Erica recommends daily mindfulness practice and healthy self care appropriate to the individual.

To speak with Erica about ThemeWork call 206-448-0848. To learn more watch for her forthcoming book, ThemeWork: How to Re-Story Your Life and Get Over What Holds You Back.

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© 2009-2015 Erica Helm Meade

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