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Stories Allow Humans to Flexibly Cooperate in Large Numbers... and Yet, Stories Are Imaginary
Which stories do you let have power over you?
How did you forget that they are stories?
How did you give your volition away?
Why do you ignore your freedom?
A worldview shifting TedTalk by Yuval Noah Harari
What Is A Story World?
Strive for simplicity. Deliver sophistication. Your Box believes your stories are true.
Making Story Worlds
You design and make everything ourselves.
Attach emotions et voila! If you feel something then it MUST be a TRUE story.
Tell the story until everyone around believes you.
Take Responsibility for Stories
Experiment STORYWOR.04: List the stories that you have about yourself.
Start each sentence with
"I am... (beautiful, cool, not cool, ugly, not worthy, boring, irritating, smart, idiot, kind, adaptive, crazy, lovable, nice, bubbly, etc..."
"I am a daughter, a son, a mother, a wife, a husband, a cheater, a businessman, a rich person, an elite, white, black, rich, poor, a refugee, ..."
All those stories are part of your Box.
Experiment STORYWOR.05: 'I Have A Story About You' Process
Stories Re-spark Imagination
Excerpt from the book: Theory and Practice of Dialogical Community Development by Peter Westoby and Gerard Dowling
While space is crucial for transformational training, stories are also vital resources for training in re-imagination. They potentially provide the models, images and pictures that enable people to imagine a different kind of world.
Two kinds of stories are explored in this reﬂection – authors and books as written stories, and people, groups and organisations as lived stories.
In many ways, drawing on our understanding of Freire’s practice of dialogue, these stories represent the codes that can be used to trigger conversations within community-based training settings.
Paulo Freire talks about literacy as learning to read both the word and the world. Within this tradition of literacy, learning is not simply about acquiring the function of reading text – a function of learning the word; it is also about the process of becoming conscious that illiteracy is a key symptom of powerlessness.
Illiterate people become aware that their lack of knowing the word is intimately connected to their marginal place in the world.
Within this Freirean tradition of literacy, the ‘reading’ of stories can be conceptualised as acquiring literacy in our imaginative lives.
Radical Story-World Experiment
Taking radical responsibility for stories, especially your own.
Human beings are massively creative. We do not usually think of ourselves as creative. We allow that we might be a little creative at Christmas time when we wrap presents or decorate the house. But in every moment we are creating the stories that we tell to ourselves and to other people – the stories that give meaning to what happens in our lives. We do not tend to notice how voraciously we produce stories because every three seconds the Box regenerates stories identical to what it created for us in the previous three seconds. This is how the Box keeps things the same; it ongoingly creates the same stories.
There are two classes of stories that we can create about what happens. By far the most common story we create characterizes us as a victim of the circumstances. That we were a victim seems completely inarguable. The inarguability comes from our habit of interpreting “the facts” to show how we were hurt, insulted, abandoned, betrayed, abused, neglected, etc., forcibly establishing ourselves as a victim in a Low Drama. Telling a victim story about what happened comes from the parent or child ego states.
But we could take the exact same circumstances, the same incident, the same people involved, the same actions, and we could create a responsible story about being involved in these circumstances. Responsible stories place us “at cause” or “at source” for the circumstances. Responsible stories come from the Adult responsible ego state.
Creating responsible stories is a skill, perhaps a new skill. It may not have occurred to us that we could, in every circumstance, create a responsible story showing exactly how we caused, allowed, or, in some conscious or unconscious way, promoted what happened. We may have failed to listen to our intuition, for example, ignored obvious signals, or hesitated with timing, and in this way landed ourselves directly in the situation on purpose, perhaps an unconscious purpose, but still on purpose, even if it was a less than optimal situation.
What could we possibly gain from creating a less than optimal circumstance for ourselves? Consider these: A well-crafted victim story attracts kind attentions from powerful people, allows us special exceptions, provides acceptable reasons for receiving extra comforts, justifies us taking revenge, undermines frightening intimacy in relationships, and so on. The idea that we could actually be responsible for creating things the way they turned out in every case may be a very startling perspective.
Cynthia, for instance, could not make the leap to figuring out how to take responsibility for her father committing suicide when she was only nine years old. This one event, about which she had always felt like a powerless victim, had dominated Cynthia’s life decisions and her relationships to men and to authority figures in general.
When something happens and we make up a story about it, we can choose between making up a victim story or a responsible story. Cynthia wasn’t immediately able to see that her victim story actually robbed her of responsible power. Like Cynthia, if we create a victim story for ourselves then we get only the irresponsible power to complain, to blame someone else, to feel resentment, to get revenge, to prove ourselves right, or to prove someone else wrong.
When Cynthia created a responsible story about her father’s suicide, the results were remarkably different. To create the responsible story in this example, Cynthia asked herself “Who picked my parents?” and answered that question by affirming that she did. The choice was hers… as our choices are ours. Suddenly it was clear that she was not a victim at all, but had actually had a part in setting the whole thing up. Through creating a responsible story Cynthia claimed the responsible power of choice.
By choosing to adopt a responsible perspective today we get to see how we set things up for ourselves all along the way, and then derived benefit from having an outstanding victim story for all the previous years.
When we create a responsible story about what happens we vibrate with a different sort of power. We have responsible power, the power of ownership, the power of causing to be, the power of being at source. Choosing to create responsible stories about what happens to us creates High Drama and opens the doors to the Extraordinary.
Instead of saying, “I do not have time for this” as a victim, we responsibly say, “I will not make time for this.” Instead of saying, “I can’t do this” as a victim, we responsibly say, “Until now I have always chosen not to do this.” It soon becomes clear that of the two stories we could create about what happens to us, victim or responsible, the responsible story gives us more power.
Now we come to an even more interesting question, the Archetypal question: Of the two stories we could create about what happens to us, which story is true?
What a puzzling question!
Which story is true?
Some of us think that the victim story is true because what happened to us really did happen to us. We really were victimized. Therefore we really are victims. Those of us dedicated to creating victim stories tend to live in the domain of the Ordinary.
Some of us think that the responsible story is true because we cannot avoid responsibility so easily. Regardless of what happens to us we cannot deny the fact that it is we who made the choices that got us into those specific circumstances so that these precise things could happen. We could have made other choices and we did not, so we are responsible for making it happen exactly that way. Those of us who declare and step into responsible stories tend to live in Extraordinary Human Relationships.
But there remains this nagging question: Which of the two stories is true?
Try answering the question, “Which story is true?” with another question: “How could a story be true?”
Stories are stories. There is no such thing as a true story. How can a story be true? No matter how convincing a story is, no matter how useful a story is, a story is just a story, a fiction, an editorialized point of view.
Unconsciously made, a story is an interpretation of circumstances slanted to produce a certain meaning that is useful for supporting our Box’s unconscious purpose: Low Drama.
Consciously made, a story can be useful for supporting us being our destiny Principles in action: High Drama.
In either case, we use stories to create the theatrical performances we call relationship. We make up a story and then we walk into the universe of conditions created by that story as if the conditions were actually true. We play our characters as if our lives depended on it, even though we just wrote the script ourselves!
Taking an Archetypal step beyond stories requires tremendous courage. Can you admit that no matter how grim or how funny your piece of theater is, it is still theater? If so, you free yourself of the confines of any particular story and you become a story maker. Taking actions from the realization that I am the story maker is part of Radical Responsibility. Radical Responsibility is based on the tacit, irrefutable understanding that every story is a fiction. Using Radical Responsibility, the story maker goes ahead and consciously makes stories anyway, not because they are true but because they are useful. Taking Radical Responsibility for being the story maker permits us to produce stories where we can behave with kindness, generosity, and compassion with ourselves and with others, no matter what the circumstances.
But responsibly observing the stories we make may reveal another pattern, that Gremlin is controlling our in-house movie projector. We may have a long history of making stories that include propositions such as, “I can’t. It is impossible. You are wrong. That is not fair. It is not my fault. You are bad. You are stupid. You hurt me. I hate you. I am better than you. I can get away with this. This does not apply to me. You betrayed me. I don’t trust you. I will get back at you.” and so on. Radical Responsibility reveals the true intention of these stories: to serve the unconscious Shadow Principles of our Hidden Purpose. Taking responsibility for being the story maker assumes our willingness to find ourselves personally responsible for hurting other people and feeling glad about it. This makes responsible self-observation risky. What we see may not be a pretty sight.
Observing the intention of our stories does not mean trying to change our victim stories to responsible stories. This could lead to us regarding victim stories as “bad” and responsible stories as “good.” Victim stories are not “bad.” Victim stories are just victim stories and produce certain known and predictable results, namely Low Drama and Ordinary Human Relationship. Responsible stories are not “good.” Responsible stories are just responsible stories and produce certain known and predictable results, namely High Drama and Extraordinary Human Relationship. The whole “good vs. bad” dichotomy is itself an irresponsible Shadow Principle and automatically produces the likes of the Catholic Inquisition and Nazi death camps that typically proceed in our mind and heart during Ordinary Human Relationship. Replacing victim stories with responsible stories is a process that occurs gradually over time through the painful experience of redemption. We are redeemed when objective impersonal remorse about creating victim stories becomes so intense in our moment-centered experience that it is too painfully ridiculous to continue creating victim stories.
We slip into Archetypal Relationship reflexively through a shift of context. Included in the shift of context is the awareness that “I am the story maker. I make up no story accidentally. Every story is meaningless, and, every story has a purpose. Either I am not aware of the purpose of my story – in which case I serve unconscious purposes and I enter Ordinary Human Relationship – or I am aware of the purpose of my story, in which case I serve conscious purposes and I enter Extraordinary Human Relationship.” The context of Archetypal Relationship has such clarity about story making that you can let all stories pass, as if you were a surfer in the waves. You are the surfer, not the wave. With each wave that comes along you have a choice. The wave does not automatically drag you along. As the surfer you can either ride the wave consciously without thinking that the story is anything but a story, our you can let the wave slide by you and crash purposelessly on the seashore.
Freedom from the meaningfulness of stories does not imply freedom from stories. There will always be stories. You may as well use stories that let you walk through your day with some bounce in your step. For example, no matter what has happened to you so far in your life, and no matter what previous stories you have so far used, you could make up an entirely new story right now that releases you from being a victim of all of your previous victim stories. Your new story would be a responsible story. It could go something like this: “I am so grateful for everything that has happened to me so far, no matter how painful it was at the time, because what happened has given me the wisdom to make better choices now.”
The new story is you taking full responsibility for creating your past circumstances just exactly the way they went so that you could learn all that you needed to learn to get exactly here, in this moment, in this book. The new story tells how you start over at this point to create an interesting, challenging, love-filled future, full of experiments in relationship and adventures delivering your full contribution to humanity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are stories "bad"?
It could be that you have it hard-wired in your brain that stories are bad. When you think about stories, automatically "bad" come up. In your brain, stories=bad. It does not take long to rewire your brain and you can do it in the privacy of your own home. This is a brain self-surgery.
Brain Self-Surgery: Hard-wire.
Make for yourself a quiet and undisturbed environment for 15min.
Be centered, grounded, bubbled.
Click your clicker one more time to declare your golden cube of working space around you.
Great - you are in first position of Possibility Manager. You can now start the surgery.
Click your clicker one more time and find yourself into your own laboratory. One of the spaces that we have access at any time to is our own laboratory. You will be most often sitting in a chair facing a work-bench with your tools.
This is an energetic surgery and it helps your system integrate the surgery if you move your physical hands with your energetic hands.
First things first, wash your hand under hot water with soap. Rinse them and shake them dry.
Open the top of your head with a zipper. The zipper starts above your right ear and goes all around passing just above your left ear.
Lift the top of your head like the hood of a car (or like a hoody).
Your brain is now exposed.
Find the wire "story". You might have to dig into your brain.
Pull it out in front of your eyes.
What color is the wire "story"?
It is link with another wire "bad".
What color is the wire "bad"? It will be a different color.
Now pick up your wire-cutters on your work-bench. Cut the two wires were they link up.
Now you should have the wire "story" in one hand and the wire "bad" in your other hand.
Place the wire "bad" back into your brain, it will find its place by itself.
Now in your left hand, you have the wire "story".
What do you want to wire it with? Think about this for a while. Close your eyes and ask yourself: "what do I want the wire "story" to be connected to?"
The most powerful and useful wire you can wire "story" to is the other wire "story".
If you want to wire story = story, then look into your brain for the other wire "story" of the same color. When you have it pull it in front of your eyes. Now in your right hand you have the wire "story" and in your left hand the other wire "story". They are both the same color.
To connect the two wires, please twist their ends together. Then pick up your solder and melt the ending together. "Shfffit" It will make a sound.
Put down the solder and pick the tape of the color of the wire and tape the part that you just solder so it looks seamless.
Great. After you make sure they are strongly attached together, put the wire "story=story" back into your brain. It will find its place by itself.
The surgery is not over, you have to close your brain. Please put back the lifted part of your brain back on and zip back closed.
Pick up the healing jar of cream on your bench. Open it. What color is it?
Take handfuls and smear it on the zipper so your skin heals close. Be generous.
When you are done, close the jar and put it back on your work-bench.
Make sure that everything is in order in your laboratory. Then click your clicker one more time to come back to the space your physical body is in.
When you have done this surgery on yourself, you can provide that service for the ones around you.