Storytelling is a very old and global human tradition and has profound value in its capacity to teach and contribute towards healing human suffering.
The Stone Child is such a story. It is an Inuit fable which I discovered in the book called Warming the Stone Child: Myths and Stories of Abandonment and the Unmothered Child by Jungian analyst and storyteller, Clarissa Pinkolas Estes.
The experience and pain of abandonment, whether real or metaphorical, can leave wounds in the human psyche and cast a shadow over our entire adult experience.
The story of the stone child reminds us of the human suffering endured but also of the gems in that suffering when we open our hearts to it, mourn it and allow it to melt our frozen hearts.
Doing this often entails working closely with a compassionate witness, and, once having faced our inner “demons” with an accepting and loving approach, we find that within it lies buried powerful creative energies, resilience and compassion, for ourselves and for others.
These inner jewels are always there, deep inside us, available to us to unearth from the dirt, mud and grime of often very difficult life experiences.
My hope is that this story will inspire you too:
There was once an orphan who was so lonely and so hungry that no one wanted to be near him.
His mouth was open all the time and his teeth were always showing and tears were always running down from his eyes, and he was so wild with hunger that they had to tie him in the entrance to one of the skin houses so he’d not try to eat the hunters on their way to the seal hunt; that’s how hungry he was.
They would, on occasion, leave him some rancid reindeer meat or maybe some spoiled intestines to eat, but, as we know, it was more than hunger for food that was gnawing at him; it was those deep needs that not even the person themself understand.
So every day he stretched his chain a little bit and a little bit more, until he could get near a stone that was more or less the same size as himself.
You see, his mother and father had died one night, and their bodies had been dragged off by bears, and all that had been left behind by them was this one particular stone.
So he wrapped both his arms and his legs around that rock and he wouldn’t let go of it.
And, of course, his people thought he was crazier than ever, and on their way home from the hunt, with animal carcasses slung over their shoulders, they would jeer at him, and they would say, “Analuk has taken a stone for a wife, ha ha. It’s good for you to have a wife who is a stone, for then you cannot use your hunger and eat her.” And they went on their way.
But the boy was so lonely and so hungry that he really had reached the end of his feeling for life.
And even though he had that terrible loneliness and that gnawing hunger, he kept his body wrapped around that stone, and because the stone began to take the heat from his flesh, the boy began to die.
The stone took the heat from his hands, and then it took the heat from his thighs, and it even took the heat from his chin where he rested it on top of the stone.
And just as the boy was living his last breath, the hunters of his village came by again on their way home from the hunt, and again they called him down, and they said, “You crazy boy! You are nesting with that stone like it is an egg. We should call you Bird Boy, you good-for-nothing creature.”
And because the boy was near death, his feelings were hurt more than he could ever say, and great icy tears began to roll down his face and across his parka, and his cold, cold tears hit the hot, hot stone with a sizzle and a hiss and a crack, and it broke the stone right in two.
And inside was the most perfect little female the boy could ever want. “Come,” she said, “I am here now, and you are an orphan no more.”
And she gave him a bow and arrows and a harpoon she had brought with her, and the boy and the girl made their house and had babies.
And, if they are not yet dead, they are in that land where the snow is violet and the night sky is black. They are there, living still.
This fable can bring to mind any and all experiences of loss, abandonment and utter loneliness, real or imagined.
But sadly, many people have been abandoned or neglected by significant others and may struggle to find a sense of goodness in themselves and may feel forever hungry for love, for attention, for recognition to the point that they will take anything offered to them, begging for attention, admiration and love.
Often this is done in the hope of regaining that sense of what they lost in their early years or later.
Attachment to others is a basic human need. Abandonment often leaves a deep sense of unworthiness, loneliness, isolation and disconnection from self and others, through to adulthood. It often gets repeated or reenacted in adult relationships.
But healing can be found if the original abandonment or abuse is storied and shared with a compassionate other.
The painful experience is the development of tremendous strength, tremendous power, tremendous intuition.
And often most of the people who are the greatest healers living on the face of this earth are “unmothered” children.
One of the great gifts of the unmothered child – and also the healer, the writer, the musician and all those in the arts – is intuition.
So instead of closing and shutting out the pain, we must open ourselves up to it. When we connect with the unloved and rejected parts, something magical happens, we feel connected again to ourselves and others in a meaningful way.
“Be proud of your scars. They have everything to do with your strength, and what you’ve endured. They’re a treasure map to the deep self” – Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Carin-Lee Masters is a clinical psychologist in private practice. While she cannot enter into correspondence with individual readers, she will try to answer as many queries as possible through this column or refer you to organisations that can assist. You can write to her at email@example.com
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