These posts are adapted from the 20 minute lessons on story telling presented by Dan at the beginning of our Workshop! Workshop! show.
Narrative in the manner talked about the other day, allows us to have a cohesive sense of self over a vast level of time. We order events, imbue them with meaning, and separate how we see meaning compared to other people.
When you come out as a baby you have all these new cells and by the time you’re 30, none of you is the same you, at least at the cellular level. Only a fraction of the cells you were born with, exists today. They’ve divided, died, flaked off and regenerated. You’re basically a whole new you!
In terms of your sense of self that’s true too. You’ve been through so many changes. Yet you still have a feeling of a cohesive self. This is because you understand the narrative story of your life. There is connective tissue between the changes. I wondered about this, and then I learned about it, and now it’s like I’ve always known. I used to think Y but then B happened and now instead of thinking Y I think C.
There’s people who don’t or who have trouble with that. It causes them problems, dealing with others, anxiety, and prevents them from feeling safe in their own body. A lot of neurosis and self esteem issues stem from not having a fully formed sense of self. If you lose the ability to imbue meaning in story, or order events, you lose the narrative that makes you, feel like you.
How does it all come together?
One of the cool things about storytelling and getting into this art is that you have this control over who you are and how you present yourself to the world. Your choices are clearer, not only to other people but to you too. In our Story Luck workshops we’ve talked about framing, how that lets you tell the same story – your story – in multiple different ways. The more you understand that you have a choice about what frame you chose, the better you can understand yourself.
Your life isn’t just the events that happened to you. Your life is a story, you get to decide where the sympathy is, you get to decide the evolution of change, from naive underdog, to full on superhero. Through the power of these developmental storytelling building blocks you keep that sense of cohesive self from one year to the next. You aren’t the same person, but you can track the changes.