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To be human is to have a story, says Erica Helm Meade, who for decades balanced her work-life between two disciplines: storytelling and a private practice in psychotherapy. “The two arts feed one another,” she says, “as both have to do with character, the human condition, and the psyche’s bent toward narrative as a way to make meaning.”

A lifelong student of myth and folklore, Erica sees mythology as the first psychology and often brings a pertinent story into the consulting room. “It’s powerful to visit that place where the personal and universal overlap. When a story strikes a chord it goes to work on you. Empathy, catharsis, insight, perspective, compassion, solace, courage–all these can come from a well-chosen tale.” She has written two books inviting us into this process, TELL IT BY HEART: Women and the Healing Power of Story and THE MOON IN THE WELL: Wisdom Tales to Transform Your Life, Family, and Community, both published by Open Court.

“At the heart of therapy are the stories that define us,” says Meade, “family stories, personal stories–spoken and unspoken. These can inspire or constrict us. The stories we tell ourselves shape our perception of the moment and set the tone for the future.” Erica’s current book in progress, ThemeWork: How to Re-Story Your Life and Get Over What Holds You Back, is about deconstructing our restrictive stories. It takes a look at how they got there, what purpose they once served, how they live presently in our bodies and minds, and how they actively shape present and future.

In ThemeWork sessions Erica helps clients bring their stories to light through mindful present-moment awareness of emotions, body sensations, memories and visual imagery. “As we expand our awareness,” she says, “and invite compassion into the places that have been cemented with shoulds and shame, we gain capacity for positive change. Our stories then becomes more honest, forgiving, fluid, lively, optimistic, creative, and best of all, more true.” When our stories are viably updated in these ways, they support healthier more authentic choices moment to moment, day to day, thus enabling us to be the genuine heroes and heroines of our own lives.

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© 2009-2017 Erica Helm Meade

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