This week in our story class I heard a question that I have heard many times before. It also arose in our Personal Success Story workshop in Cape Town last month. Whose story are we working with, mine or the character’s?
Interestingly enough the question only arise when working with adults. Young people do not ask this question. To them as for me, the answer is obvious: there is no difference – that is why story is so powerful for understanding yourself.
I have worked mostly with youngsters over the last 15 years and just breached the adult market in the last 3 years. Every time it surprises me that for adults the distance between fiction and fact is so vast.
Play and story both help to overcome that distance so that we can once again gain a proper perspective on our own life stories and our own characters. Throughout the ages stories have been told to help simplify our complicated lives and make concrete all the things that seem so abstract to us and hard to grasp with our minds.
Through symbols, archetypes and story patterns it helps us reduce our complex abstract thoughts and experiences into something that is simple and concrete.
So when you choose a character in a story to play with, that character reduces aspects of yourself that is difficult to deal with, or hard to access and makes it simple and accessible.
When you therefore take part in a story and identify with a character, either in one of our workshops or while reading a good book or watching well made movie, that character teaches you about you. Of course, unless you let go of your left brain analysing habits while you play, the new understanding and perspective on your life will remain elusive.
You must suspend disbelief for the time that you play or read or enjoy a movie, else it won’t work.
Thank you to all of you who had asked me this question over the last few years. It has helped me to help other participants understand the importance of letting go the controlling nature of the left brain in favour of the powerful workings of the creative right brain. Thanks to you I have been able to adjust my class introduction so that participants are eased into the play space and understand what is required of them i.e. to play inside the boundaries of the story only with the characters and symbols that are appropriate to the story. Once the story is done we will then reflect on what the story means to us in our real lives.
Because more surprising than the apparent distance between fact and fiction for adults, is the fact that :
What we think is fiction (the right brain created story) contains more truth than the fabrications created by our left brains to help create the illusion of control.
To those of you currently running the story class, my sincere hope is that you will enjoy your characters without restraint. We will get a chance to ask and reflect on what they have to say about ourselves. For the time being, allow them to take on a life of their own without any judgment about what the character has to do with you. The most surprising aspects of the character will relate, but much of it may just be pure fiction and play.
I look forward to playing next week with Lollie the exotic dancer, Friar Charles, The oh so very pregnant Evelyn Haupfleish, Lady Ishta the betrothed, Bluh the disfigured gate keeper of the underworld and the charismatic crown prince…
Our story has explosive possibilities!
At the moment all we know is that Lady Ishtar is betrothed to the charismatic Duke Tamuz who is in love with a, until now ,very ordinary women Evelyn Haupfleish. She now carries his children (triplets). As many of the noblemen in the town does, he has gone to the underworld for rejuvenation, but he is not returning and time is running out. Bluh jealously guards the gate keeping a watchful eye on any irregularities and Friar Charles who blessed the descent is very worried. The only untouched character until now is Lollie the dancer…
With all the characters clarified and the set up complete, we are ready for an event that will focus the action and propel the story forward: the Call to Adventure
Watch this space as the story unfolds.
Petro Janse van Vuuren