Story class 1.6 – Why Acting creates the shift that thinking can’t

There comes a point in everyone’s story, fictional or real, where a shift in perspective is crucial for successful transformation. In real life people look for this shift by reading, attending seminars, talking to their friends and mentors, going to church and googling for info on the net. Yet all the info and talk and thinking in the world do not bring them to the point of making that internal behavioural shift – that moment that causes them never to be the same again.

Then that same person goes on holiday, or has to deal with the death of a loved one, or a wedding, or they play a game of soccer with friends or they go for a hike in nature, or they create a piece of art, or join a dance class or just have a great meal with friends and suddenly old things have a new colour.

All these are examples of experiences that bring change: experiential learning. Typically they have the following 4 aspects in common:

1. A change of scenery/setting
2. Involvement of the body i.e. movement
3. Emotional connection i.e. a heart response and
4. The presence of others – including the presence of nature or the creative muse

I went to my kinesiologist 2 months ago with a most debilitating pain in my back. She says to me: you think and struggle too much in your head and do not move enough in your body. She prescribed a half hour of walking twice a week so that my mental struggles can come into perspective and move from my head into my body.

This advice was one of the reasons that prompted me to start the story class because I knew I did not have enough work that allowed me to move – too many ideas in my head and not enough physical outlet for them. Of course acting out stories adds people, a change of scenery and the emotional connection, creating the ideal opportunity for gut level shifts to occur.

Although these shifts can happen to anyone at any time, there is a particular moment in a story designed for it. A place in the story where it is most likely to occur because of all the story stages that preceded it. This moment is typically two thirds into the story just before act three. Some writers refer to it as the pause before the climax, that calm before the storm. It is the moment when the hero seems to have lost and the journey seems to be a failure, then something happens that allows him/her to see the bigger picture and the greater good.

This is the moment where Shrek in the first movie realises it is no longer about getting his swamp back, but it is now about getting his love back. It is where Brave Heart realises it is no longer just about his family, but about is entire tribe. It is the moment where the facilitator realises it is not about the plan and the timeline, but about commitment to a group and including all the voices of the participant. It is also the moment when the travellers in the Underworld enter into the court of Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld.

Last week’s class was all about Stage 4 of the journey: The Ordeal. The conversation we had about how to deal with absence in the group evoked the distinctive kind of energy that is characteristic of the Ordeal. When we therefore stood up from the table and began to:

1. Change the scenery from this world into story world, then from the upper world of Bellashréne to the Underworld
2. Move our bodies to create images of protagonist, antagonist, contagonist and guide
3. Engage our emotions in response to the story and
4. Work collaboratively with one another,

I could see each character making the shift we are talking about and transforming to a higher level of consciousness.

I saw Fai Lilly stretched to breaking point trying to see into the Underworld and then letting it go, finding her peace in the Upper World.

I saw Friar Charles full of fear trying to protect and fend off threats finally surrendering to the powers of the Underworld ending on the floor squealing with glee.

I saw Bluh, the lonesome outcast connecting with others and making friends.

I saw Lollie the dancer abandon her need to understand allowing the dance to penetrate not just her own body but radiate into the entire Underworld.

I saw Ishtar the Betrothed and Evelyn the Loved find friendship in each other and peace in themselves.

I also saw myself as Queen of the Underworld first lose control and then regain her dignity.

Such is the power of acting and such is the power of doing it in a story with others.

Thank you all for your undivided commitment to the journey!

What lies ahead are mere formalities: events that directly flow from these shifts:
1. Finding the Duke Tamuz
2. Paying the price for his release
3. The birth of the triplets
4. The preservation of friendships
5. The return to Bellashréne.

Looking forward!

Petro Janse van Vuuren

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