Stories as "law"
In January 2022, I had a wonderful experience with Emma Veritas of Veritas Writers Sanctuary. I signed up for an Oracle Clarity Session with her. Now, full-disclosure, I don’t put a lot of stock into tarot cards and such things. I am a woman of science, after all (she said with a little bit of self-deprecation). I value logic and data. AND I love metaphor and language and mystery. Like Anne of Green Gables, I’ve come to realize that “there’s such a lot of different Kims in me.” Anyway, I signed up for the Oracle reading, not because I believe that there is a magical power guiding the cards, but because I believe in the amazing ability of the mind to make fascinating connections to symbols. And I was not disappointed! After my Oracle Clarity Session, I have reframed the way I’m looking at Rewriting Your Story and have so many fresh ideas.
Emma pulls three cards representing your Message, your Audience, and your Voice. The one I want to focus on is the card she pulled for my Message--The Outlaw!
At first, I was a bit troubled by the Outlaw, because, I’ll admit it, I’m a rule-follower. I always have been. Following rules allowed me to prove what a good girl I was. I played by the rules and generally benefited from the rules. And I especially approve of rules that are there for protection and to help preserve respect. For instance, when I go hiking, I take the rule of staying on the trail very seriously. As an ecologist, I recognize the degradation that happens when people go off the trails. I’ll admit, I don’t always like sticking to the trails, but in public lands I believe it is a sign of respect, to both the land and those trying to enjoy the land, to follow the rules. But I only mention this to help you understand why the Outlaw card was a bit of a surprise for me.
There is also a part of me that secretly longs rebel. There is a part of me that wants to tell the world to eff-off and to live as free and radical as I want. More importantly, I am drawn to the Rebel/Outlaw because I want to fight against the institutions and systems that are oppressive and cause harm. I want to change the world. And it takes a Rebel to change the world. And when rules and institutions do not protect those who need protection, then I am all for the Rebel and Outlaw.
Holding space for both/and…
So, I tend to feel a bit of internal confusion because I need to hold space for the Rule-follower, the Law-abider, and also for the Rebel and Outlaw. But when it comes to my writing and my messaging, I always have thought of my “Message” as one of being sort of kind, compassionate, and gentle; whereas my first reaction to the Outlaw is one of being loud, in-your-face, and the devil-may-care kind of deal. Maybe my knee-jerk response to the Outlaw is overly impacted by images of recent our current political climate because my first thought was, “How can my message be a message of being an Outlaw?”
This is where the oracle card reading got particularly interesting. Emma and I had a conversation about the Outlaw as my Message. During that conversation I realized that, when you rewrite your story, your story is the “law” or “rules” you live by, so to speak. Your story is what that tells you what you should or shouldn’t do; what you can or can’t do; it is the law you live by, whether you know it or not. And my message, to rewrite your story, is very much a message of the Outlaw. Rewriting your story is all about stepping outside of the old rules and creating new ones. The Outlaw challenges the rules/laws.
Black-and-white, either/or thinking would have us believe that either all rules are worth following and that all outlaws are dangerous, or no rules are worth following and all outlaws are heroes. However, history and reality have shown us that some rules and laws protect the innocent and others protect those in power. And some outlaws are dangerous, while some outlaws are needed to stop corruption. You can’t divide them up into nice, easily defined, categories. In fact, many people that we look up to as being instrumental in changing humanity for the better (think Jesus, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr.) were considered rebels. They opposed the laws. They had a different story to offer us.
This post, however, is not about our collective stories that need to be re-written, although there are so many of them needing that right now. This post is about your personal stories that need to be challenged. This is where my experience and expertise lie. This is about finding your inner Outlaw, the one who can challenge old, outdated, limiting stories and set your personal life on a new course. If you are interested in learning about ways to challenge our collective stories, but don’t know where to start, I’ve compiled a short list of books that can help at the end of this post. I’d also welcome comments on more resources to share as I enlarge my own understanding.
The Outlaw Archetype
How can the Outlaw Archetype help you explore the idea of rewriting your story? How is rewriting your story an act of rebellion? Are there areas in your life that you long to rebel against? Is there a part of you yearning to step out a story that is keeping you small, limiting your sense of self-worth, telling you are not enough? The stories we tell ourselves become our own personal “establishment.” But it is an establishment in which you are in charge. You can challenge those stories by channeling your inner Outlaw.
The Outlaw is also known as the Rebel, Anarchist, Revolutionary, Political Protester, Nonconformist, Pirate. In Caroline Myss’s Archetype Cards Guidebook (2003) and A Gallery of Archetypes she writes:
“the Rebel is a key component of all human growth and development. The Rebel in a support group can be a powerful aid in helping the group break out of old tribal patterns. It can also help you see past tired preconceptions in your field of professional or creative endeavor. The Rebel can also lead you to reject spiritual systems that do not serve your inner need for direct union with the Divine and to seek out more appropriate paths. The shadow Rebel, conversely, may compel you to rebel out of peer pressure or for the sake of fashion, and so become mired in another manifestation of conformity. The shadow Rebel may also reject legitimate authority simply because it is asking you to do something you find difficult or unpleasant. Be especially careful in evaluating your rebellious impulses; even if the Rebel is not part of your intimate circle of archetypes, you probably have it to some extent and should pay attention to its urgings.”
Like I mentioned earlier, the Rebel or Outlaw is not one of my more active Archetypes. But honestly, the Outlaw has always been lurking around the corners of my psyche. I often get a zing of something--excitement, energy, rebellion--as I come across anti-conformist ideas or whenever I sense injustice. It’s why I have always been drawn to stories about powerful rebels--from fictional characters like The Mandalorian, Ellen Ripley from Aliens, Thelma and Louise, Sarah Connor from the Terminator 2, to real-life individuals like Malala Yousafzai, Dian Fossey, Rosa Parks, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Glennon Doyle.
As I sit with and think about the Rebel Archetype, I am seeing now how powerful the Outlaw is for my own personal development and growth. Without the Rebel to question the validity of my stories or be incensed by the way I treat myself, I’d never change. Susanna Barlow has an excellent discussion of the Rebel Archetype and I want to share part of her ideas:
“The Enlightened Rebel is a master at challenging their own beliefs and thoughts that are hindering them in some way. With their unique ability for unconventional behavior their solutions and creativity can be inspiring. When something is not working, the Enlightened Rebel is not one to put their head in the sand. They confront issues head on and with fiery vigor providing a clear direction for healing and transformation. Through self-rebellion the Enlightened Rebel finds their greatest power, the power to completely and radically change their own behaviors and their own lives for the better.”
As you lean into your Inner Outlaw, you become aware of things that are out of alignment in your life. We all spend time playing by the rules set out for us by others. And we often buy into those rules as things we truly believe. However, there comes a time in our lives to question those ideas, to see if following those old stories is helping us live with more, or less, integrity. The Outlaw can give you the courage to stand up to those stories that keep you from living authentically. When you choose to change your story, you are channeling the Outlaw.
Stacey L.L. Couch talks about using the Rebel archetype:
“We have to set down the torch and feel into our own darkness…The real rebellion is against the expectations we’ve placed on ourselves. When is it time to stop pretending? How do we stop playing by the rules when the rules are playing us? Why does everyone else’s opinion matter?”
I think all-or-nothing, either/or thinking is so engrained in us that it’s easy to take Archetypes to an extreme. Getting in touch with your Inner Outlaw does not mean you must outright reject all of your stories. When utilizing Archetypes to rewrite your story, it is important to watch out for all-or-nothing thinking traps. There is a need for balance, tension even, between rules and rebellions, conformity and non-conformity, action and stillness. This is something each individual has to feel their way into. It requires mindfulness, intentionality, questioning, thinking, and feeling.
Getting in touch with your Inner Outlaw
It starts with noticing…
There are several ways to get in touch with the Outlaw. It starts with noticing. Notice things like:
negative thought patterns--the “shoulds” and “shoudn’ts,” the times you tell yourself you can’t do/think/feel/be a certain way, the harsh judgments that you proclaim against yourself.
times when you are blaming your feelings/situations/behaviors on someone else.
any internal angst you routinely feel. Things like frustration, anger, irritability that seem to have a pattern to them.
any patterns to fear. Are you anxious around potential conflict? Do you feel anxious about how people will respond to you? Are you afraid to participate in certain activities? Where do fear and anxiety routinely show up for you?
These things may be indicators that you are in a story that doesn’t serve your deepest self. They can be messages from your Outlaw that the rules (stories) you are living by are holding you down. It’s the internal rumbling letting you know it is time to shake things up.
After you notice, try challenging…
Once you’ve recognized those thoughts and feelings, see if you can identify the stories and thoughts that go with them. Then, challenge those thoughts. If your story is:
“I can’t take time for myself because it would be selfish.”
Challenge that idea--Is taking time for yourself truly selfish? There may be times when it would be selfish, but my guess is there are plenty of times when it is not.
“I can’t speak up because I might say the wrong thing.”
Dig deep and figure out what is so wrong about saying the wrong thing? What does that mean about you, if you say the wrong thing or make a mistake or accidentally offend someone? There’s probably a deeper story there that could use some pushback from your Outlaw.
“Nobody ever listens to me.”
Challenge this by asking yourself --do I listen to me? Do I value my opinion? Do I think I’m important enough to be listened to? Maybe your Outlaw/Rebel starts to push back and allow you to explore your relationship to yourself.
“I’d be happier if I had a better job."
This can be challenged by getting curious--have I ever been in a job that I was happy? What does happy even mean? What is keeping me from getting a better job? Is there one small thing I can do to move me towards finding a better job? Is there something I can change about myself that would create some space for more happiness in my current job?
Whatever your story, some good questions to ask are:
Is it true?
Is it absolute?
Is there another way of looking at this?
What would I tell a friend that was in my situation?
Do I dare try something different?
Start where you are…
Finally, start wherever you are. There are many ways to channel your Inner Outlaw. You don’t have to race forward, guns blazing, shooting wildly in every direction. You can do that, but you can also be more methodical in the way you start to challenge your “laws.” You can test the waters slowly, you can dive right in, you can wade out at a moderate pace. There’s no right way or wrong way to do this. I am fascinated and a bit awed by those who do things in big, wild, extreme ways precisely because I am careful and methodical. But I have learned that I can be a careful, more controlled Rebel. So, don’t avoid the Outlaw because you think it looks a certain way. Sometimes the Rebel is quiet, sometimes the Rebel speaks up. Sometimes the Rebel puts up a fight and sometimes it walks away. Sometimes the Rebel breaks down the walls and sometimes the Rebel sets boundaries. The Outlaw faces her fears, questions the validity of her stories/beliefs, and is brave enough to start to rewrite her stories.
If you are having difficulty rewriting your story, a narrative coach, like myself, can help. I can help you identify and challenge negative beliefs. Then we can work on finding ways to channel your Outlaw and find the inner strength to do the work of rewriting that story. It takes time, dedication, persistence, and patience. And it is possible. It works. You do not have to buy into those old laws that no longer serve you. When you channel your Inner Outlaw you will find the energy, the gumption, the creativity, and the determination necessary to challenge your old beliefs and rewrite your story. Sometimes you have to be brave enough to challenge the “law” so you can break free, create a new story, and find greater inner peace.
Books to challenge our collective stories:
How To Be An Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
Feminism Is For Everybody by Bell Hooks
Sitting Pretty by Rebekah Taussig
You Are Your Best Thing by Tarana Burke and Brene Brown
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism by Robin Diangelo
For more ideas check out the Full Heart Free Voice Podcast Antiracism Education