Monday, March 24, 2008

Educating Ellen

(I'm re-posting my original tale here. It's based on the old folk-tale, "Clever Elsie")

Ellen’s mother and father taught her how to be a very clever woman and educated her for a lifetime of success in business. She dressed perfectly and learned her lessons well. Then, after college graduation she went to interview at VIC—a very important company. During the interview the Boss, who wanted the cleverest secretary he could find, sent Ellen downstairs for coffee.

Ellen was a hard worker and happy to comply. She took the stairs because the elevator was too slow and then she got into a very long line at Starbucks. She waited and waited and began to daydream. If she got this job she could earn 60K in the first year (on the low end, she had researched the salaries)—certainly enough money to buy a condo within 2 years. Then, at the current rate of appreciation in her favorite suburb, she should be able to sell it at a handsome profit and buy a house. Ellen smiled. She’d get a huge yard and adopt a Golden Retriever from the local humane society. She’d name it Bubkus—and Ellen would hire a dog sitter to walk him during her long work day. Ellen would make sure that the dog sitter had all the contact info so that if anything ever happened to her while she was at work, if she had an accident, or (God forbid) got hit by a train or something, the sitter could take Bubkas to her sister Dana’s, where he’d be well cared for and could play with the little ones. If the sitter didn’t have that contact info, she wouldn’t know what to do and would just take Bubkus to the shelter and he’d be stuck in a cage all over again. Which would be horrible! Yes, a dog sitter is a must and contact info in place.

How long the line was! What if her potential new Boss blames her for this lost time? Then she won’t get the house and perhaps he’d tell all of the other CEOs of the important companies, and then she’d never get a good job and she’d have to live with her parents for the rest of her life. No guy would want to be with a woman who couldn’t find a job and lived with her parents so she’d be an old maid too. And her family wouldn’t allow her to adopt Bubkus so he’d still be in the cage at the shelter! How horrible.

Finally, she placed her coffee orders and hurried to the elevator. It was full and she had many floors to visit before getting to her Boss at the penthouse. She tried to focus back on the interview and thought about good questions and answers. Then, she had a clever idea.

Upon arriving at his office, the Boss did seem annoyed.

“You’re back.”

“Sorry. There was a very long line at the Starbucks.”

“Yes, that’s why I sent you. I hate that line.”

“You don’t want to make coffee here in the office?”

“Certainly not. Why should I if there’s a Starbucks downstairs!”

“I was thinking….”

“Yes, well, let’s finish this interview, I’m running late now and—“

Ellen took a deep breath. “I was thinking that if you sent your secretary (me) everyday to Starbucks, depending on the length of the line and when you’d send me, that could take, according to my calculations, anywhere from 5.8 minutes if there is no line to 14.7 minutes for a long line. If you average these times out to be 10.25 minutes a day that would make—if taking a week off (roughly) for holidays and a week off for vacation, then, counting 50 working weeks you would have lost 2,562 minutes in a year. Since I plan on staying at this firm for a long time you could extrapolate that to 12,812 minutes in 5 years and 25,620 minutes in 10 years and 51,240 minutes lost after 20 years. Since there are 420 minutes in a 7 hour day then in 20 years I would have wasted 122 full days of work!”

The Boss was smiling even though his eyes were glazing over. Ellen continued. “Now you want coffee and someone needs to get it. What I could do is bring work with me. I am able to read in the elevator, I could go through company emails on the ipod while I wait in line or read over your notes for the week.”

Of course, after this, the Boss hired Ellen on the spot. They worked well together for a long time. Then one day the Boss said to Ellen, “I need to go to a meeting, can you write me up an introduction and some anecdotes for the conference next week?”

“Of course.”

Ellen loved this kind of creative work but she wasn’t feeling very well. She had a headache. Maybe I should eat? Yes, food might help. She ordered some takeout and had it delivered while she brainstormed some ideas for her Boss. She ate the food but was still feeling sick. What do I need? Some vitamins? She had some in her purse and took them and continued with her notes but she still felt ill What should I do? Maybe a little nap would help me? She thought about it and it seemed like a good idea.
She grabbed a cushion from the lobby, laid it on the desk and put her head down. Soon she was in a deep sleep.

The Boss was anxious to see what Ellen had come up with so after his long meeting he rushed to his mailbox but nothing was there. He looked for Ellen in the copy room but she wasn’t there. Finally, he walked down to her office and found her asleep, snoring, and even drooling on her desk.

“I see,” said the Boss. He went to is office and came back with a video camera. He turned it on Ellen, plugged it into the corporate-wide video system and left.

As the next workday started, Ellen awoke to the sound of loud snoring. She was stiff and disheveled and it took her a long moment to realize where she was, or even who she was. Gradually her vision cleared and on the tv monitor above her desk she saw the image of a woman sleeping, snoring, and drooling. It appeared to be a tape on a loop that repeated itself every 15 minutes. Who was that? Who? What? Is that me? Ellen saw the video camera, now stopped, sitting in front of her desk. The sound of snoring was horrible. Ellen tried to turn off the monitor but the tv was too high and only her Boss had access to the controls.

Ellen awkwardly got up and tried to straighten up. She moved slowly down the hall and saw that all the monitors above all the desks in all the offices were showing the same horrible tape. Sounds of snoring filled the hallways. Ellen ran to her Boss’ office. What are you doing?

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” he said.

“But you--?”

“I don’t know what you’re babbling about and I’m busy. Get out.”

Ellen ran from the office and was never seen again.

At least, that is the original version of the story. The other secretaries at work heard that poor Ellen had gone crazy and was institutionalized. But perhaps that’s just the story the Boss wanted them to hear.

I heard a different ending from Ellen when I met her and her lawyer in the Bahamas.
© Lewis-Barr 2008
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Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Fractured Fairy Tale from You Tube

I'll be cutting back on my postings and working on some new stories. Hope to post them soon. In the meantime, here's a memory from childhood--a Fractured Fairy tale of "Rapunzel" on You Tube. This cartoon reworks the original story but it's fun.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Seen Your Shadow Lately?

Found a great article explaining the Jungian concept of Shadow. Here it is.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Thoreau for Today

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!
Live the life you've imagined.
As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler;
solitude will not be solitude,
poverty will not be poverty,
nor weakness weakness.
Henry David Thoreau

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

How Much Do You Disclose?

Saturday Night Live recently featured several sketches with an overly sensitive hero, MacGruber, who tries to discuss his hurt feelings while defusing bombs. I've linked to three of them here. SNL sketches don't typically make me laugh, but these really worked for me. Is that because they hit close to home? Do I disclose too much? I value discussing my feelings and enjoy small groups that practice deep disclosure.

Of course, sometimes, it is ridiculous to share our many moods. But generally, don't we go too far in hiding our true selves? How can we safely share our thoughts and emotions? How can we deal with inevitable conflicts and create deeper connections?

© Lewis-Barr 2008
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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Capturing the Subtle in Michael Clayton

Have you seen the movie “Michael Clayton?” I think it's a terrific expression of the hero's journey. It also featured synchronicities (meaningful coincidences) that didn't feel trite or contrived. It's not easy for a writer to offer twists of fate that seem real enough to affect the character and audience. We've all had these uncanny events, but since they're embedded within the context of our life story, they can be hard to explain--and even harder to illustrate in a two hour film.

What mysterious chance-events have you had lately?

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Thoughts on "The Handless Maiden."

Mary wants to be a writer but she’s too afraid. Besides, she has a great job. Her father convinced her to study accounting.

Pam's father didn't face his own demons but pushed his excessive self-criticism outward-to toddler Pam. Whether reading the comics together, or driving to a family vacation, he bullied the spirited child. He told Pam her feelings didn't make sense. She grew to doubt her inner voice. As an adult, Pam finds it impossible to be assertive at work. Although she feels victimized by a co-worker, she never speaks up.

Cara's great love was acting but she went back to school for social work. She tried to repress her envy as she watched her friends’ triumphs. She was just as talented but had “bad luck.” She believed she “wasn’t meant to be an actress.” What Cara didn’t notice was that she’d always quit just when a plum role came her way. Then, after a few years away from the theatre, she'd venture back. When new success came, she'd quit again.

A woman's inability to reach for what she wants is a central theme of the powerful tale, “The Handless Maiden."

I think the story also talks about:
**How parents betray their children and psychologically maim them--(cutting off the daughter’s hands).

**The usefulness of grief and tears to heal us and protect us from negative spiraling--(crying on the stumps).

**The need for patience and finding ways to nurture oneself while healing--(eating pears in the garden).

**How, when we are tired, communication can become distorted and hurtful—(the devil changing the messages).

**The psyche’s ability to heal if one is patient--(the growth of the new hands).

I’m finding many other people also writing about this tale. Here are some posts.

What are your thoughts?
© Lewis-Barr 2008
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Monday, March 17, 2008

The Handless Maiden or The Girl with the Silver Hands

Wanted to get back to a story today. Here's a classic that holds potent medicine.

It goes by several different titles including this Grimm version called "The Girl Without Hands."

See what you find in it. I'll post my thoughts tomorrow.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Who's Driving You?

Woke up this morning with an idea for a project. Since I’m an intuitive, these inspirations come fully formed--in a flash. In the past, I’ve had visions for new theatre scripts or ways to stage a play. Bringing these impressions to fruition is an incredible thrill.

Regrettably, my ego can get carried away after one of these brainstorms. My ambitious-self starts scheming and dreaming of the money and fame finally coming my way.

Then, eventually, another inner personality speaks up. This is my fearful, sensitive side that fights my egotism. This part cries that my ideas aren’t good, or I’m not ready--and no one cares anyway. Whereas one side puffed me up, the other dynamic begs me to quit. I seesaw between their alarms and demands. I berate myself and feel crazy.

As an intuitive artist, I’ve always listened to my hunches and valued guidance from within. Unfortunately, I never realized I was listening to more than one inner voice.

My Jungian reading has taught me that we all have multiple inner characters who ca
n “hijack” consciousness. When one of these dynamos overtakes us, it can feel like our own everyday ego. Since our ordinary consciousness is overwhelmed, we never realize what’s hit us.

Finally, I understood my erratic fluctuations! I also began to see others suffering from these these ego-hijacked moments.

Now that I understand these inner voices, I can fight my pattern of boomeranging between them. I’ll look for the wisdom in each voice and try to avoid their radical views.

Does all this seem too obvious? It’s always easy to see the dynamics in another person. Sadly, we’re often completely oblivious to our own blind spots and the “
complexes” that commandeer our personalities.

Whenever we do anything that feels “out of character,” surprises, or bewilders us, we have proof that this repressed part has taken over.

Can you remember such a time?
© Lewis-Barr 2008
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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spring Koan

Two birds fly past.
They are needed somewhere.

--Robert Bly

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Listening for the Hunch

My work with dreams seems to be enhancing my intuition. It's hard to “prove” these hunches-they're fleeting and subtle. Still, I'll share an example from this morning to illustrate.

I needed to wake up early to go to a networking event. But I was uncharacteristically resistant. An inner voice insisted, “you don't need to get up this early.” I argued back, “if I show up late, I'll make a terrible impression.” This inner debate continued as my wake-up time approached. I forced myself up but still moved slowly through my morning routines. I left the house later than intended and caught some slower traffic.

I arrived at 7:35--five minutes past the start time for a continental breakfast. I knew most participants wouldn't arrive before 8am, but I'd wanted to show up extra early, impress my host, and have time to chat with her. Crud. Oh well. What could I do? I hoped that my relatively early appearance would suffice.

The presenter and one other networker were chatting when I arrived, but my host wasn't around. Great! Dodged that bullet. Our happy trio joked until the host appeared and announced that, due to a scheduling confusion, the event wouldn't begin until 9 am.

I smiled inwardly. While I hadn't arrived extra early, as I'd planned, I was early enough to chat and make a good impression. Even better, I now had an excuse not to stay for the actual program, which I'd seen the week before.

Sometimes we float with the flow. Nice!

© Lewis-Barr 2008
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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Thoughts on "The Louse and The Flea."

"The Louse and The Flea" is a jaunty poem-story that has cheery rhythms set against a sad story of destruction. Why such a combination? For me, this weird tale functions like a pop song with somber lyrics. The infectious beat or melody keeps me entranced long enough to hear the challenging message. Tracy Chapman and Sting both use this technique.

And what is the message of this strange little ditty? I'm struck by the story's litany of hysterical reactions. Is this the chronology of a riot? From the smallest accident (the louse burning), a chaos builds. A tiny spark produces a devastating flood.

This possible interpretation can describe outer events or, per my bias, a picture of inner dynamics.

I wonder about the “insignificant” hot spots in my psyche. Do you see any tiny psychic burns that destructively accelerate in you?

© Lewis-Barr 2008
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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A short, odd, dream-like tale.

Here's an unusual Grimm tale. Not sure I'll be able to make any sense of it. See what you can do!

"The Louse and the Flea"

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More on "The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs."

There was a man who, because of his goodness, became a target. The powerful tried to destroy him, but he was lucky, and Fate kept him on a golden path.

He was fated to change the culture. Because of his skills, he was able to identify the root causes of huge problems. He could pluck goodness out of an evil situation.

This short sketch comes from my reading of “
The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs," a Grimm tale I posted yesterday.

Marie Louise Von Franz, in her books on fairy tales, frequently analyzes these stories that have an evil or aging king and a hero who must perform tasks. Von Franz was brilliant at analyzing every symbol—an undertaking far beyond my skills. Still, I can share a recurring theme she emphasized.

The King symbolizes an out-dated viewpoint in a culture. The hero represents a new kind of thinking that usurps this old consciousness. The manner (easy or hard) and ending (success or failure) of this revolution can illustrate what is happening in the deepest layers of a culture’s psychology.

In this story, the hero is helped by the Devil’s grandmother! She is both the source of the Devil and beyond Him. Is she Mother Nature? The hero is willing to visit a frightening place---the Devil’s home. But here he finds something beyond evil. He also gains an understanding of wickedness and the root causes of his community's problems.

© Lewis-Barr 2008
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Monday, March 10, 2008

The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs

Today's story is much longer than previous tales we've read. See what you think of it.

"The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs."

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Continuing Thoughts on "The Singing Bone."

In “The Singing Bone,” an innocent son obtains protection and overcomes the ferocious boar. I interpret the boar as volatile and destructive emotions within one's pysche. Maturity (and the hero’s journey) involves learning to overcome emotional assaults from within. In this story, the hero achieves this growth but is finally destroyed by another damaging impulse from within.

What challenges do you (have you) skillfully overcome (the boar)?

What dynamics within your personality still manage to sabotage your goals or progress (the evil brother)?

Lately, I’ve heard some chilling (and true!) stories from friends and acquaintances. In one, a wife discovers that her physician husband has been poisoning her. In another, a mother blames her daughter’s therapist for reporting incest in the family. These events are terrible, but even worse, is the seemingly normal life that follows these crimes. After my colleague left her murderous husband, he continued to prosper and eventually remarry. The incestuous family pretends that the arrest never happened. They seem, from an outsider’s view, to be very close-knit, happy and “normal.” How is this possible? If you’re the victim (or friend), such scenes can make you doubt your own sanity.

This is where a morality tale, such as “The Singing Bone,” or Poe's Tell -Tale Heart can offer comfort. The destructive force wins, but only temporarily. This tale (like many of the Grimm fables) affirms that--even if it takes a long time--goodness and truth eventually triumph.

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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Brothers' Grimm--The Singing Bone

Today I’m reading “The Singing Bone.”

What do you notice about this story?

What does it mean to you?

I’ll share my thoughts tomorrow.

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Friday, March 7, 2008

Squaring the Circle

I'm still tweaking this site to make it easier to read. In the meantime, here’s a great blog to visit—this artist creates a new mandala everyday. Jung was a great believer in the usefulness of mandalas (they are found worldwide) to visually represent psychic wholeness. When we create mandalas, we are symbolically working to mend the schisms in our own unconscious.
Seems to work with today's quote:

Dare to be naive.
- Buckminster Fuller

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Jungian Look at "The Secret"

Have you read "The Secret?"

I tried to get it from my public library (just for research). No dice. They had eight copies--all out. Same with my sister's library. On the bestseller list for 33 weeks, the book's popularity reveals....what? A gaping wound in our national psyche? Are we feeling so desperate and incomplete that we hunger for magical powers?

The Secret claims we can "attract" anything we want, through our thoughts. If that were true, I'd have won the Pulitzer Prize by now. Still, psychologists have proven that chipper attitudes can lead to happy results. Think "self-fulfilling prophecy." Even some brain scientists confirm: when we make hopeful statements to ourselves, we train our brains to look for those hoped-for events.

Just where ordinary (not supernatural) influence begins and ends is debatable. But, even if we can, through our thoughts (AND actions), create change, are we alone at Life's helm? "The Secret" tells me how to get what I want when I want it. But how do I reconcile my self-absorbed quests with a spiritual path?

For many years, I pursued a career in the theatre. In addition to hard work (as director, producer, or playwright), I also tried conjuring success through affirmations. I described in great detail all the awards and acclaim coming to me. Then, at the peak of these drills, one of my productions was panned in a local paper. Devastated, I blew out my candles, stopped affirmations, and waited to recover. I wasn't merely disheartened with my "create your own reality" program; I found myself reborn to a new and deep humility. If I believed in God, maybe it was time to surrender to Him (Her)? Maybe it was time to stop demanding my own will?

Meanwhile, I was also reading lots of Jungian psychology. These books said that my conscious will was only one piece of the puzzle. We create our circumstances, not through magic or mysticism, but through the unconscious behaviors and signals we constantly send out. Jungian therapists delve into the dreams, coincidences, and events of their clients, to understand these dynamics.

Yet, Jungians also believe we are not the sole drivers of our fate. There is a Reality, beyond our control and understanding--the "collective unconscious." Jungians don't need to speak of "God," but they do talk of yielding to the ‘Self': the God in us. So, we must accept responsibility for our actions (and even some outside events), while also adopting a healthy humility. We admit our small place in the universe.

What "The Secret" leaves out is this healthy humility. Following the book's premises, we're left isolated in our ego's tiny self-absorbed world.

For Jung, our waking consciousness (ego) is like a cork floating on the ocean. We cannot know this vast reality but we can acknowledge it. Instead of seeking to control our circumstances, we can follow the more difficult path---surrendering to a Greater Reality, while striving to live responsibly.
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I'm back!

Visited Wordpress and liked it very much but missed certain features of Blogger. Here’s some of what I wrote while I’ve been gone!

If you like experimental drama, check out the critically acclaimed series, "The Singing Detective." We are renting it through Netflix. Time magazine calls it a "daring dramatization of the subconscious." Like all mythic or fairy tale stories, it has plenty of bleak moments. But these are balanced by verbal wit, crazy purple prose, and fantastic musical production numbers. Highly recommended!

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