These days it seems like everyone's talking about telling stories to engage audiences
But what about storymaking to benefit for your own life and work?
As knowledge workers, we're often aiming stories "out there" toward others. But we also need stories ... we need stories aimed "in here" toward our own hearts and minds. Why? Because story is how our unconscious mind reveals hidden wisdom that our conscious minds need to know.
Great stories reveal hidden truths
In the book Stealing Fire from the Gods, James Bonnet talks about how stories become great when they reveal small bits of hidden truths. These truths are things you know unconsciously but not consciously. Becoming aware of these truths will allow you to transform your life, to grow and change, to get where you're supposed to go, to meet and fulfill your destiny.
This may seem like grand flowery language. Not everyone believes in a destiny per se. But everyone is searching for meaning in their life.
Meaning buoys you over stormy seas
In Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl talks about how finding meaning allowed him to survive the worst of circumstances, imprisonment in a concentration camp. Despite suffering illness without care, starvation, freezing cold, and cruelty to himself and those he loved, he managed to continue even when he had no sense if or when the suffering might end other than in death. He was able to continue on because he found meaning in his living.
“Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” — Viktor E. Frankl
So how do you do this? How do you speak the language of story and become conscious of your own unconscious wisdom?
You become a self storymaker, where you are the hero of the storied journey.
This is true for every storymaker — the stories we make feature some aspect of ourselves. For how could it be otherwise? We have only ourselves, our own psyches, through which to understand the world.
See your life as a hero's journey
You can organize your story using the stages of the Hero's Journey popularized by the late myth researcher, Joseph Campbell, like this:
- Your story of transformation begins in an ordinary world ... your world of comfort and reliability. You feel safe and unchallenged here, even if it's because you've grown complacent. We build fences and put up walls to be secure only to realize we have imprisoned ourselves in a place where we can no longer grow.
- Seemingly out of nowhere, a call to adventure challenges you to leave the comfort and security. This is actually a challenge to leave the well-lit world of consciousness to explore the murky, unlit depths of the unconscious, to see what you can learn there.
- You likely refuse that call. Who wouldn't? Why would you leave your version of a palace that is safe and secure to journey God knows where and become vulnerable to unknown dangers and perhaps even death? But the longer you refuse, the more that goes wrong. Your efforts to accomplish and actualize and achieve only cause everything to fall apart, more and more.
- Finally, you realize you must leave or nothing you value will be left. You must accept the call. And so you do.
- Meeting the mentor. Once you accept the call, things change. You encounter others critical to finding your way. You need wisdom that you don't yet have. You're journeying into the unknown ... unknown to the ego/hero but not to all. Others have been there and can advise you by sharing their wisdom.
- Crossing the threshold. Armed with new wisdom from your mentor, and a new understanding of the importance of the journey ahead, you cross the boundary into the unknown.
- Tests, enemies, allies. Other critical figures start to pop up. Some will be your allies, others, your enemies. It's all about the goal of the adventure now. It's all about the grail you must find and bring home. Some will give you directions. Some will join you and help. Some will block your way, threaten you, and compete with you for the grail ... they want it for themselves ...or they want you not to have it. Your getting it will mean their downfall, the failure of their objective.
- The approach. After passing a series of tests, each growing in intensity, you find yourself nearing the inner chasm, the greatest, most dangerous test. You have never been more afraid, but at the same time, you have never been more certain that you must follow through. You cannot turn back.
- The abyss, death, and rebirth. Here you face your greatest challenge and fear. In so doing, you must die to your old self and be reborn anew.
- Reward — seizing the sword. Surviving the abyss, you get what you came for. The great reward that you need to progress in your life.
- The road back. With new knowledge and/or a holy grail, you turn back toward home, that ordinary world you were reluctant to leave. Now, you may be reluctant to return, but you must. There may be some struggle with this decision.
- The resurrection. The journey home is not free of peril. The opposition mounts one final attack, the greatest you will face. It is here you give all you've got (with the benefit of the new knowledge/power you acquired), and vanquish dark forces once and for all.
- Return home with the elixir. All hail the conquering hero!