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Story Medicine: The Medium Of Leaders & Heroes

Story Medicine

Storytelling is a healing art and mankind’s oldest form of psychology. Stories have the power to calm, heal, rejuvenate—to invoke deeper comprehension and reflection while inviting a shift in perspective. Ancient cultures revered storytelling, which was a sacred practice reserved for the learned and holy men, and served as a powerful medium for helping tribes and clans cope with the hardship of survival.

The Hero Within

On a psychological and spiritual level, we profoundly resonate with tales of crisis, conflict and transformation. We individually and collectively identify with the hero of the story, who overcomes insurmountable obstacles in a confluent realization of innate potential and purpose. The storytelling traditions of our indigenous ancestors are the foundation of the hero’s journey, which evolved into the archetypal right of passage common to world mythologies.

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”           ~Joseph Campbell, from ‘The Hero With A Thousand Faces’

The metaphor of an unfolding adventure of discovery, one which presents confounding problems and challenges—each representing a threshold of realization and growth—subconsciously motivates us to reconsider the powers of faith and possibility in our lives, inspiring new viewpoints of ourselves and the world around us. Indeed, stories are how we make sense of ourselves.

Leadership Tales

There are three primary elements of story that play into the human experience:

  1. Identity: A context to interpret the past and anticipate the future
  2. Integration: A narrative for affirming life meaning and purpose
  3. Socialization: A dialogue with which to interact with others

Research in psychology has shown that people realize meaning and purpose in their lives through personal stories; this is especially true in tales of individual redemption through which pain and suffering are transformed into self enlightenment, and then conferred as a benefit to others. (See ‘The Redemptive Self’ by Northwestern University psychology professor Dan McAdams here). 

This is why storytelling is fundamental to leadership, especially the trial and redemption aspect, which provides the backdrop of crisis, conflict and transformation necessary to resonate with the listener’s inner hero. Incorporating these elements engages and motivates others to consider why they should change their world, while at the same time opening their receptivity as to how that might be achieved.

An effective leadership tale compels people to experience and examine their values on an emotional basis rather than as abstract principals, inspiring a calling to action of their own leadership qualities and ability. This personal inspiration is then integrated through social interaction to become part of the organizational identity, exemplifying why storytelling is one of the most powerful leadership tools of organizers and movement builders.

Therapeutic Imagery

According to research by psychology professor Jonathan Adler, PhD, therapy patients who experience themselves—rather than the therapist—as the focal point of the story, show the most improvement (see American Psychological Association publication, ‘Our Stories, Ourselves’ here). This is the fundamental principle of Therapeutic Imagery, which is a mindfulness meditation modality that facilitates imagination and visualization with all the senses.

A large and growing body of research demonstrates the efficacy of mindfulness meditation modalities in treating various medical and mental health related conditions. Therapeutic Imagery is particularly effective for wellness, mindfulness training, and personal development initiatives such as:

  • Increasing Emotional Intelligence
  • Managing Stress & Anxiety
  • Overcoming Physical Debility & Relieving Pain 
  • Resolving Psychological Trauma
  • Treating Autoimmune Conditions

Therapeutic ImageryThe predisposition of the subconscious mind to interpret imagery in story form, and the persuasive power of stories to dramatically shape thoughts, memories and emotional attachments, is the heart of this artistic and extremely client friendly approach. Universal symbols, mythological archetypes, and personal metaphors empower new and enlightened encounters with personal challenges, stimulating self-discovery and a meaningful rescripting of life stories.

Why The Medicine Works

Sometimes words such as ‘problem’ and ‘challenge’ elicit the need to visit our misfortunes. Stories help us stay positive and focus on the ways in which our struggles are born of personal choices. We learn to recognize attitudes and beliefs that are limiting and self-defeating. We begin reframing our narrative of self. Instead of pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps, we endeavor to climb mountains. The ability to inspire ourselves and others prompts us to take leadership roles and embrace opportunities to serve. Indeed, stories affirm that we each possess the innate ability and determination, the courage and wisdom, the compassion and force of will to be leaders and heroes in our own lives.

©2015 Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht. & Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery. All Rights Reserved.

Shawn picture-52

Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht.

Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery specializes in innovative approaches to workplace wellness, mindfulness training, and personal development. Via private coaching, presentations, workshops, training events, and our partnership in the unique online wellness community Your Wellness Room—used by Kaiser Permanente, EFactor and other notable companies—our nationally recognized programs and practices help people and organizations make positive changes. Please call for a free consultation at (818) 512-4371 or contact us via email. 

Creative Genius: The Masks Of Pain & Sorrow

Three years have passed since Robin Williams was found unconscious and pronounced dead at his home as a result of committing suicide. As we remember this phenomenal comedian and actor, may we keep in mind that many people live with—and are sometimes overcome by—challenges that are beyond our understanding.

The Tears Of A Clown

Often the masks that compensate for pain are brilliant and profound—insight, inspiration, and wondrous expression forged from the compress of despair and outrage at the human condition—a means of balance and equalization. This can manifest as art at its finest, yet it can be a precarious and fragile existence, an uncharted journey through the shifting moods of vulnerability, loss, isolation and melancholy. The psyche attempts to protect itself from behind the constructs of the mask, yet the vision of reality is a gestalt of the world’s wounds; and alas, even a legacy of creative genius cannot hide the hurt. Perhaps some reach a certain reckoning with that truth, while others must decide for themselves when the time has come to move along.

“Now there’s some sad things known to man
But ain’t too much sadder than
The tears of a clown
When there’s no one around.”
~Smokey Robinson

As we savor the uncanny and magnificent enchantment and laughter and unparalleled wit left by one of the greatest jesters the world has ever known, may we always keep in mind the battles others fight in their lives just to face each day, to bring themselves into our presence and share their special gifts. Let us welcome the painted faces of joy and laughter . . . and sorrow, the many masks and guises each of us wears, and may we pay special attention to those stained with tears.

©2014 By Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht. & Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery

Finding The Psychic Science

  • Is it possible to actually read the thoughts of others, or somehow sense and influence the state of their mood or health?
  • Are there really such things as angels, spirit guides, or totems that speak to us or otherwise present themselves in our lives?
  • What about clairvoyance, telepathy, precognition and divination?

Certain answers to questions like these lie in the realm of quantum energy theory, which is gaining tremendous traction in the ever merging spheres of science and spirituality. The psychic phenomenon of psychokinesis is defined as the mind’s ability to influence matter, time, space, or energy by means unknown to current science. Interestingly, quantum physics shares this concept in its hypothesis of a universal energy field, also known as ‘unified field theory’ or ‘unity consciousness’, which contemplates reality as all life forces, all existence, interacting within a single, unified framework (see Huffington Post article Global Spirit: The Journey Toward Oneness here).

Organic Sentience

From a quantum physics perspective, psychic ability could be thought of as organic sentience in energy form—a sensory transmission of intelligence—an ambient communion beyond a linear time/space continuum. A primary example of this kind of communication occurs in nature, where very distinct and sensuous forms of ‘language’ exist to remind us that everything is alive, aware and interconnected. In these interactions with the natural world, receptivity manifests in all our senses as a joining of mind, body and spirit; at times we are even held spellbound, and can be moved to profound insights, heightened emotions and enlightened thoughts. Wisdom and deeper knowledge flash before us and we are often motivated to write down or otherwise record such inspirations.

Tree Of Life

The first prophecies were the word of an oak. ~Plato

The human organism is especially attuned to organic sentience. Eyes, skin, tongue, ears and nostrils are sensory gateways for negotiating the living world. We hear winged chatter in the trees, taste the tangy sweetness of wild-picked berries, feel sand between our toes, see lightning flash in the sky, and smell moisture in the air. Indeed, the wind, the rain, the mountains and rivers, the woodlands and meadows and all their inhabitants animate our psyche. Even in a highly mechanized and information-driven world, these communications call upon our elemental relationship with nature and stir deep empathic responses, luring us into altered states of perceptual possibility.

The Mind’s Eye

Unified field theory considers the electromagnetic field of vibratory energy as a structural matrix that exists everywhere, an organic sentience from which all forces and particles emerge. This energy field is deemed conscious or intelligent because it encompasses the basic behavior of all things within the functioning laws of nature. We individualize perception through our own mind processes, yet consciousness itself is the quantum stuff of the universe and represents the interconnection of all of life.

Therefore, as a manifestation of consciousness, we must deliberate psychic ability as involving the innate interaction between the body’s natural electromagnetic fields and the electromagnetic field of vibratory energy. Since the heart generates and distributes electromagnetic waves throughout the bloodstream, which includes the pineal gland in the brain, let’s take a closer look at the role of this fascinating organ.

Pineal GlandAs part of the endocrine system, the pineal gland is located between the two hemispheres of the brain and has many unique aspects and functions, including:

  • Detection of light (the pineal gland is directly wired to the brain’s visual cortex)
  • Allowing more blood flow than any other gland in the body
  • Regulation of circadian rhythms which affect our sleep/wake cycles
  • Production of melatonin and serotonin hallucinogens that influence mood and perception
  • Sensitivity to all types of magnetic fields

Historically considered ‘the mind’s-eye’ and linked to the sixth in the series of seven energy and spiritual chakras of the body (also known as the third-eye chakra), this tiny pinecone shaped organ is steeped in ancient spiritual symbolism and iconography. The interior lining of the pineal gland is composed of rods and cones—photoreceptors just like the eye—and is the only organ besides the eye that senses light. With the vast amount of blood and electromagnetic energy that flow through it, the pineal gland appears to modulate consciousness, catalyzing imagination, visualization and creativity to transform our perceptions into images, the language of the subconscious mind.

A significant body of neurochemical and anthropological evidence suggests that the pineal gland may produce a neuromodulator that enhances a state of consciousness conducive to psychic ability. This research further indicates the earth’s magnetic fields affect the functioning of the pineal gland, and that production and secretion of melatonin and endogenous serotonin hallucinogens impacted by variations in the earth’s magnetic fields could be conducive to the occurrence of psychic states of consciousness. The implications of this research are far-reaching and suggest the pineal gland functions as a neuromechanism by which psychic ability may interrelate with geomagnetic fluctuation. (See publication by Psi Research Centre, ‘Speculations On The Effect of Geomagnetism On The Pineal Gland’ here.)

Trance States

A discourse on physic ability or clairvoyance, even in the context of quantum physics theory, inevitably invokes images of fraudulent practitioners presenting themselves as psychic mediums. Thus, a certain degree of skepticism is warranted. An analysis of the considerable research conducted on the practice of shamanism, however, demonstrates that trance states have a functional relationship with healing procedures, divination, extrasensory perception and psychokinesis.

By virtue of its ancient roots in cultures across the globe, shamanism is distinguished from other magico-religious practices such as mediumship, spiritual healing, or prophesying. It derives from hunting and gathering societies and incorporates biologically based altered states of consciousness, including interacting with the spirit realm and channeling those energies into this world. Shamanism appears to predate all organized religions and has attracted the interest of anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, religious scholars and psychologists, who have produced and published books, academic papers and peer-reviewed journals devoted to its study and interpretation.

Trance States

The relationship of trance states to divination and healing ability has been demonstrated in a large body of research on shamanism published by the American Anthropological Association

A wide range of experimental laboratory research on shamanistic practices suggests an operative connection between trance states and healing and divination abilities. These trance states are dominated by slow wave patterns of discharge from parts of the brain including the limbic system, frontal cortex, and hippocampal area, which are optimal for energy, orienting, learning, memory, and attention. A review of eighty-seven parapsychological laboratory studies indicates that trance states such as meditation and hypnosis induced relaxation, and sensory deprivation significantly improved extrasensory perception and psychokinetic performance.

The use of trance states functionally circumvents normal cognitive processes to access subconscious information, which may be revealed in dreams, visions, or other intuitive or instinctive manifestations of cognition. Even if extrasensory perception is not involved, trance states may still facilitate divination by providing access to subconscious insight. These studies also demonstrate that humans have the ability to affect and heal a variety of biological systems through psychokinesis.

It has been demonstrated that a common physiology underlies altered states of consciousness induced by a variety of different procedures. Meditation disciplines value trance states as providing the basis for a more objective perception of reality. Yoga traditions indicate that siddhis (paranormal powers) including healing and other psychic abilities, are a by-product of spiritual development which involve direct and profound alterations of consciousness. A large body of research exists suggesting that trance state healing and well-being practices are psychobiologically based. The empirical evidence includes the universal nature of such practices, the psychobiological characteristics of trance states, and the functional relationships and association of trance with the abilities of healing and divination. (See ‘Shamans and Other Magico-Religious Healers: A Cross-Cultural Study of Their Origins,’ published on behalf of the American Anthropological Association [PDF], here).


Unity Consciousness

The Universe Is Alive, Aware & Interconnected

The cosmos itself is a conscious entity populated with other conscious entities, each of which is a quantum hologram, an enigmatic representation of the whole. Consciousness flows naturally from all living beings and shapes the electromagnetic field of light and vibratory energy that connects every organism in the universe. Our ability to ‘channel’ and direct this conscious energy stream is determined by our individual congruency of mind, body and spirit. Many variables effect this equation, including some that elude our comprehension; yet ultimately, everyone shares in an ethereal matrix of awareness which can manifest in transcendent forms such as intuition, instinct, extrasensory perception, and empathic or psychic ability. In ways as unique as the fractal geometry of a snowflake, each of us channels the infinitely mysterious sanctity of creation, this shared life force known as consciousness, in vast and varied ways that defy absolute definition and understanding.

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

~T.S. Elliot

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Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht.

Note: This exploration of psychic ability and unity consciousness is by no means comprehensive and is intended only as an introduction to the power of human potential. Ours is not a world of absolutes and the science of cognition, in particular, is still more about what is being discovered than what is actually known. Developing the ability to recognize and fully trust our powers of perception, to realize deeper wisdom and enlightenment, to experience profound insight and fulfill our journey of purpose, are ultimately endeavors of spiritual self-discovery. Unity consciousness involves opening up to the sacred bond of creation and inviting divinity in its many forms—these are functions of inclusion rather than exclusion, of being liberated from constrained convictions, of embracing infinite possibility rather than limited proof—and of connecting instead of dividing, both within ourselves and to the living universe.

©2015 Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht. and Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery



Managing Stress & Body Weight

Managing Stress

Manage Stress & Body Weight By Regulating Your Blood Sugar 

The Simple Truths Of Blood Sugar

How does the body react to stress? What are the impacts of diet and exercise on this process? Stress is a fact of everyday life for most people, so it is important to know how to take care of ourselves physically and emotionally in responding to stressful situations.

When it comes to weight, the crucial element is understanding how stress impacts blood sugar. Our natural stress response involves the release of hormones that elevate blood sugar (glucose), which is needed by our brain to respond to challenges. But when blood sugar levels rise too high, the body begins converting the excess glucose to fat. Refined sugars and simple carbohydrates also elevate blood sugar, compounding this process. Therefore, it is imperative that we be mindful of our sugar intake during times of stress.

“Whole, unprocessed, single item foods that don’t require labeling of ingredients are the healthiest choices.”

During stressful situations we commonly feel hungry, so make sure nutritious choices are available. Include foods rich in protein such as lean meats, nuts, and legumes, and those high in soluble fiber such as fruits and vegetables; limit sweets and processed foods containing simple carbohydrates and sugars. The American Heart Association recommends restricting refined sugars added to our diets to no more than half of our daily calorie allowance. For American women, this averages about 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day, and for men, about 9 teaspoons per day (See American Heart Association article ‘Sugar 101’ here).

Exercise & Mindfulness Meditation

Exercise regulates blood sugar by burning calories and providing a physical release for the stress hormones in the body. Even in small doses throughout the day, physical activity counteracts the effects of elevated glucose levels and stimulates our brain chemistry to make us feel better. So remember to move around; avoid sitting for more than two hours at a time. And along with incorporating a regular exercise regimen to help achieve a healthy weight, invite activities into each day such as standing to perform certain tasks, walking whenever possible, and using the stairs instead of the elevator.

Mindfulness MeditationFinally, keep in mind that caffeine also elevates blood sugar and excess amounts actually make us feel more stressed. Mindfulness meditation is an excellent alternative as it boosts our energy in the best ways possible—calming anxious reactions that raise glucose levels, sharpening focus and concentration, and improving our mental and emotional outlook—giving us a positive and powerful coping tool for managing stress and maintaining a healthy body weight.

These links will help you learn more about stress management, healthy diet and body image,and wellness.

©2014 by Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht. & Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery