Personal Narratives Studio: What story about you are you telling yourself and others?
Do you feel...
- like you are powerless and worthless, good for nothing?
- like everyone else is having a good life but you feel like a loser?
- a profound lack of direction and motivation, and nothing seems to help?
- a deep inferiority complex and frequent identity crises?
- overwhelmed by unsurmountable sense of hopelessness, inadequacy, and poor self image?
- a need for a radical reboot, a total reinvention of a new you?
From my experience working with people, I learned that many individuals suffer from self-defeating and self-sabotaging thought habits. When I developed my Creative Liberation Lab program, I decided to begin the class by asking my students, "What's your spark?"
But before finding one's own spark, or a sense of deep-seated life vocation, one must know who they are — and become mindfully aware of the story they tell themselves about themselves — habitual words and narratives that define their own identities and the way they perceive who they are.
The predominant culture reinforces a systemic, oppressive social norm that tells us to conform to unrealistic expectations and standards or feel like we are worthless failures. Too often, our parents, teachers, society, religion, and mass media feed to this damaging phenomenon. Black feminist thinker Audre Lorde called this "the mythical norm."
In response to this realization, I have created a new program called Personal Narratives Studio.
Just as branding for a business is powerful in shaping its success, critically examining and reformulating our own personal stories of our lives can transform our perceptions of life, our behaviors, and how we interact with the world around us — and give you a new sense of vision and mission for life, unleashing your inner genius and personal power that were always there but were suppressed by the negative self-talk.
Personal Narratives Studio is one-on-one/small-group, hands-on education on how you can revolutionize your mind and your life by critically examining the ways how you speak of yourself. This program combines best practices from personal branding and image consulting together with spiritual direction and pastoral counseling (note: while I'm a licensed ecofeminist neo-pagan minister, this is a non-sectarian, non-proselytizing service open to everyone of any or no religious affiliation).
The method I have developed for Personal Narratives Studio is a combination of brand development for social enterprises as adapted for individuals as it relates to their personal lives, in addition to facilitated brainstorming, active listening, and (non-sectarian) pastoral counseling and spiritual directions.
One of the major distinguishing features in the Personal Narratives Studio program is a complete repudiation of the self-realization model that focuses on self, desires, and pleasures. In fact, I consciously stay away from the model that tells you to "work on yourself," something I find it to be both ableist and hedonistic, reinforcing the white neoliberal social norms.
I believe that we the human beings are social beings, and our worths as a person largely emanate from — and are fully realized through — the acts and spirit of service to others. While this does not mean human worths are dependent on one's utility and desirability to society, in my years of working with those who are systemically marginalized by the oppressive society, I have found that it is a radically empowering and liberating experience when one realizes that they matter to society and they can contribute to the common good. In the autumn of 2011, I experienced this first-hand as an active member of the Occupy Portland encampment community: perhaps for the first time in their lives, many street youth and chronically houseless individuals — most of them have been told all their lives to seek help, to work on themselves, that they're liabilities to society, failures, and are good for nothing — discovered their own dignity, power, and voice as they spontaneously rose into positions of organizers and leadership. It was truly an amazing time.
While they may argue that self-fulfillment and self-realization are prerequisites for serving others, this line of thinking too often come from "lifestyle business" gurus and "personal transformation" coaches with social and economic privileges who are talking mostly to those who already possess the same kind of privileges. I reject this idea, as metaphysically it is impossible for any person to be filled unless they allow themselves first to become a conduit for that flow. Dr. Hunter "Patch" Adams, the founder of the Gesundheit Institute (and made famous by the late Robin Williams' eponymous film), found that psychiatric patients recovered remarkably when they shifted their focus on their own mental illnesses and engaged in acts of service to the others.
I believe that a true human transformation can only take place on the foundations of purpose, conviction, and vocation — not desire, passion, or emotionalism.
No humans live as an atomized self. The modern approach to self-realization, rooted in New Age consumer "spirituality" and Ayn Rand-esque exaltation of self and self-directed desires, promotes the continuation of the capitalist-consumerist-neoliberal status quo and leverages the privilege by normalizing the white, Global North, upper middle class, heterosexual, monogamous, nuclear family lifestyle as the sole desirable lifestyle to aspire to. As a culture-maker, I repudiate and reject this approach taken by the majority of life coaches, self-appointed "spiritual teachers," and "healers" as utterly antithetical to my moral commitment to a more just and inclusive society.
The key to your personal narrative is this: You are part of something so much, much bigger than yourself; and you are a unique, necessary, and yet only one expression of that which is bigger than yourself — some may call this God, Goddess, Dharma, Universal Mind, or the Cosmic Law.
Schedule a session
First session usually runs for two and a half hours (150 minutes) and subsequent sessions run for 60 minutes each. Sessions are in-person, although we may be able to offer subsequent sessions and follow-ups online.
It is not necessary to commit to multiple sessions. You can benefit from just one session, as well. Follow-up sessions can take place once a month, twice a month, quarterly, or even annually.
The first session costs $225 and follow-up in-person sessions are $90 each. Online follow-up support is available over Telegram for a smaller fee.
I do not do sliding-scale, but you can save money if you find someone to double- or triple-up. A group session costs the same ($90 per hour), plus $10 per-person surcharge (per session, not per hour). The maximum for a group is five persons per session, so if you can bring four of your friends together, your per-person price can be as low as $55 for the first session and $28 for each subsequent one-hour session.
To schedule a session, feel free to contact me so we can discuss time availability.
Personal Narratives Studio is not a clinical counseling or psychological service and should not be construed as a substitute for appropriate mental health services.
If you require an urgent mental health service:
- Unity Center for Behavioral Health, 1225 NE 2nd Ave., Portland, Oregon 97232; phone: (503) 944-8000
- Clackamas County Behavioral Health Crisis Hotline; phone: (503) 655-8585
- Columbia County Mental Health Crisis Intervention; 24-hour crisis line: (503) 397-5211; Walk-in: 58646 McNulty Way, Saint Helens.
- Multnomah County Mental Health Crisis Intervention; phone: (503) 988-4888 or 1-800-716-9769
- Washington County Crisis Service/Línea de crisis de salud mental phone: (503) 291-9111 tambien en castellano
- Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare, Clatsop County (Astoria/Warrenton/Seaside/Cannon Beach) Oregon crisis line: (503) 325-5724
- Yamhill County Adult Mental Health, McMinnville, Newberg, Dundee, Crisis line: 1-844-842-8200
- Marion County Mental Health, Salem, Keizer, Woodburn
- Benton County Adult Mental Health Services, Corvallis
- Polk County Mental Health, West Salem, Dallas
- Mental Health Association of Oregon statewide resources page
- LGBTQ crisis lines
- U.S. Veterans Crisis Line, phone: 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1
- Other services: call 2-1-1.