The Role of Story — Reflection on Wounds

OBODStudyOn Saturday, my hair was cut — much shorter than I anticipated. For some reason, this bothered me way more than I expected, and I spent the next week trying to reflect — to understand why I felt so wounded.

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For those of you who don’t know, I’m slowly working working my way through the OBOD Bardic level home study course, which has a large focus on the role of the bard (surprising, I know). I’m just over 33% through, and each session has a section focusing on the aspects of a particular story.

One of the stories currently being explored is that of Taliesin and Gwion. You can google/wiki it if you like, but the gist (for the purpose of understanding this post, at least) is that a boy tends a fire heating a potion, it splashes on him, giving him power, and then the woman who asked for it flies into a rage because now her ugly son can’t have it. They transform into animals and she eats him.

That is MASSIVELY over-simplified, by the way, but it’s a pretty long story.

The latest lesson on this tale has focused on how important it is to be aware of our inner self; of the ugly side of ourselves as well as the beautiful — and Tuesday night, I came across a passage in the lesson that spoke of the mythological wounding which features in so many stories. Part of many cultures ‘coming of age’ rituals also involve a ‘death’ of the childhood self, such as by the placing of ashes or requirement to remain in darkness until being ‘reborn’ into the light of the village again.

And this, in light of my hair, made me think through the feelings of my “loss of self”.

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On Saturday, I wrote a tweet within minutes of the haircut: “Feels childish to be crying in my room over hair. But it’s a key part of identity, and invokes betrayal when instructions aren’t followed.”

I was offered support from a few people: stating that hair is important, some sympathetic “ouch, woah, hate that feeling”s. But the emotion remained; mostly because it wasn’t the loss of hair at the core — I just wasn’t quite sure what was.

Then, despite all the social norms, no one commented on it. Which makes me assume they dislike it as much as I do. But something hit me Monday night, when I realised that I was also affected by the long term impacts — such as during my wedding, where I’d like to have hair I at least like.

That’s a little more rational; the shock of a long-lasting impact for such a short, seemingly simple and unimportant event. Yet I still searched for some… reason. Anything to justify it.

Yet, one the comments gave a more positive, spiritually-connected thought.

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A fellow writer and friend, Ellie had asked me what was wrong with my hair, and replied with some spiritually-in-tune comments:

“Maybe this is the universe’s way of helping you start a new chapter. (Though, the hard way.) WAY back in the day, when Alanis Morissette first cut off her own very long hair, she said something about wanting to find out who she was/is without it. Said she’d been hiding in/behind it. I don’t necessarily think that’s what you’ve been doing, but… it’s worth mulling over. *hugs* The universe doesn’t want you to be hurt. Just to be your whole self.
The universe likes to remind us it’s there and watching, sometimes in drastic ways. <3”

As I read the discussion topic on the tale of Gwion, and the talk around wounding in order to heal, and be re-born, my brain connected with my experience of psychology and counselling: That to heal from wounds or trauma, it’s important to not just become aware of trauma, but understand the impact it has on the present day.

This is a common occurrence in story, in myth, and in culture. I’m still processing what that means, and my feelings about losing 7 years of carefully planned growth, but I think there’s something to be said for recognising that this a theme so consistently found in human culture.

The power of story speaks to us on an innate level — and any screenwriter or novelist knows that when we’re asking our readers/viewers to connect to a character, we’re really getting them to connect with something in themselves.

Sometimes I can faith that my own story, the one I’m writing as I live my life, can have the same power, and transform things in the same way. 

 

 

 

 

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