Updated: Feb 16, 2019
Wherever you look, with whomever you speak, whatever you buy or read or watch (whether it’s art or not), someone is telling you a story, or you’re telling a story to someone. "You would not believe what happened to me today…”
Blogs and marketing equations are full of tips on how to sell a story rather than just a product because they claim that nowadays buyers are rarely buying only a product. Good, archetypal yet untold narrative, a convincing and authentic story is worth the price of gold, literally. People are more aware of good storytelling than ever before and are ready to pay millions for it. In the developed world even bread has a better taste if there’s a story behind it.
Why are stories so important to us? Why do we listen to them and why do we tell them? Do we “think in stories” or do we “live in stories” or both?
We actually create stories in our lives with our lives all the time. Our lives are stories. And if we think through stories, it is because we live them and because we perceive life through them – in other words, our mind has the function of creating and perceiving a story (or a myth).
First, we encounter master archetypes such as dimensions: time, space, matter, energy, and immediately after there is a master story archetype, the one about the Creation.
Here we are interested in the archetypal story about our existence.
This realization of the mysterious self - the greatest mystery of all: a human being - as both a powerful and vulnerable creature at the same time, whose existence is both limitless and limited, who discovers, builds and devastates this world and later rebuilds it again, is precisely the subject of every story, but also its goal.
Story archetypes represent the essence of human life and civilization and they are deeply embedded in our feeling and thinking patterns and in our actions. They are the most important models through which we understand human nature and life as such.
Stories always explore the great paradox of life – we live to get to know the being we are becoming. When we finally meet a man or a woman, we wonder if the story has been creating them or they have been creating a story.
And a human - a story, finds his form through psychological and spiritual development, through all his defeats and victories and all his creations. From birth to death, through emotions, humans discover their gifts and their weaknesses, their pleasures and their sufferings. Through the establishment of boundaries and the formation of identity in relationships: within the family, in romantic bonds and friendships, in societal structures, and in relation to the great Unknown - humans realize themselves, they change, shape, transform - they ideally become the best version of themselves at any given moment. After experiencing their peak, their essence - they disappear. Transformation is always accompanied by pain and suffering, inadequacy, conflict.
For C.G. Jung, the story of existence is based on the separation of the hero from the mother or the tribe (Red Book). Individuation is a transition from “me to me”: the realization that I am something else, something bigger and better than my starting position, but also the realization that if I want to move forward, I have to leave one part of myself behind.
Transformation is, in symbolic terms, always a sort of death, even within the framework of life. Even the cells that make up our organisms reproduce by dividing.
Although I believe that man lives a story even when he is not conscious of it, the story has a true and complete meaning, only in correlation with the one who tells the story and the one who is (actively) watching it or listening to it. This transfer of knowledge, the transition from the lie (read fiction, what each story basically is), towards the truth (revelation), is embedded into the purpose of every story.
Man sees himself best in the mirror, in another, in the relationship. Therefore, we say that art is a lie that tells the truth, because through distance and identification, a person realizes the truth about himself. Only when we see what or who we are not, we can see who we are.
The story of life and the world are both based on this basic duality, conflict or paradox. It is not by chance that one of the best stories of all time, Hamlet, is about a man who not only wants to know the truth about himself, but is also brave enough to reveal the lie.
Identifying with any character or story goes like this: I am looking at something that is not happening to me, or the person I'm looking at is not me, and that's why it's so interesting. But in fact, it could happen to me, and in the right circumstances that might be me. Do I like what I see about myself, or do I understand it? And suddenly it's not only interesting, but it is also challenging me and might even be changing me in some way. I am not just me, the whole world is within me. I understand, I see, lonely me who agreed to be lonely, is becoming a part of everything. This is another paradox, that is catharsis.
The story is, therefore, the path to oneself, the archetype of the transformed human, a better civilization, a new existence on Earth: the transformation that talks about transformation. It is so important that, if there were no such paradox, mirrors who are talking to us, we would simply cease to exist.
The structure of the story, all visible and invisible, all that permeates us, is therefore woven into the flow of the Universe and we feel it, we know it intuitively, without reading any word of the theory on it. Philosophers say that if we go straight to the truth, we lose it, so we have to start in the illusion, in order to transcend into the truth.
And for the end, let's get back to the beginning, (this is by the way one of the essential dramaturgical rules).
There are people who think that those who rule the world have money, and in fact, those who rule the world, tell stories (and have money). Stories are the most powerful means of transforming reality. Some storytellers manipulate people, and some bring them/us light. What story do you tell?
Five key elements of every story
A Man, a Character, a Hero - someone who separates himself from people and as a broken part of the whole, (Freud - ego) hits the road and goes into the adventure alone.
Conflict - which is always an integral part of all relationships. It is the recognition of our boundaries, loneliness, mortality, the greatest cause of suffering, the reason we have to go on a journey, the struggle between one part of the self, against the other part of the self.
Structure – a roadmap, a plot with the stages of the transformation of the hero’s psyche. It begins with initiation (Jung, mythological adventure) and ends with the return of the loner between people. This can vary slightly from genre to genre.
Setting - represents the framework, time and space of transformation.
Premise / Catharsis - an understanding of why exactly this suffering and transformation were necessary. Understanding at least one part of human nature, a reconciliation with it. New birth. The truth that moves the ground beneath one’s feet in a surprising way and changes perception. A world built on better foundations. Victory over the illusion of ego. Growing up. Integration. The whole. End of the road. The meaning of the adventure.