Is there a roadmap for change? How do we get past Acts Two and Four? Doubt, reluctance and regression?
I've been reading 'Into the Woods, How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them' by John Yorke and in it is a chapter titled 'The Importance of Change'. The chapter looks at a common thread in all powerful stories - the change that central characters must make in order to overcome a flaw or point of internal struggle which is preventing them from achieving their goal.
Yorke uses the example of Tom Cruise's character Lt Kaffee in 'A Few Good Men'. Lt Kaffee starts out as a smug boy avoiding court appearances but, wanting to bring down the army chief for bullying a recruit to death, he needs to grow up and take on the judge by mastering the courtroom. Yorke identifies Lt Kaffee's flaw, that "he is a child in a man's world; his want is justice. To get it he's going to have to change - to become a man".
Yorke points out that the importance of change in storytelling is that it is linked to dramatic desire, "if a character wants something, they are going to have to change to get it". The concept of change has an underlying pattern built around the character's central flaw or needs.
Yorke suggests that at the beginning of a story, these elements are unconscious and they are slowly brought into the conscious mind, acted on and overcome. He illustrates this process of change in the picture below (the reference to 'Acts' is to the basic construct of stories, usually three or five acts).
What drew me into this chapter was that it seems to reflect the process of change we experience in life more generally. It's no wonder that successful stories contain this construct as it is something of the essence of being human which everyone can identify with.
Most, if not all people have experienced times of fairly significant personal change in their lives whether at the time they were conscious of it or not. Most will identify with these periods of change as ones of personal struggle, confusion and if successful, great satisfaction at having achieved the change required in order to obtain ones goal or 'magic elixir' as Joseph Campbell describes in 'The Hero With A Thousand Faces'.
What I find useful about Yorke's roadmap of change at a personal level is to see the distinct phases he identifies, which in a story create dramatic tension and in life, can be times of struggle and joy.
I have spent the past few years on a journey of substantial personal transformation. Since 2015 I have progressively moved from a life as a corporate lawyer to a life as a yoga and meditation teacher.
I identify closely with the stages Yorke sets out. I’m still working on this transition and I do think that the concept of 'total mastery' (see Act Five) belongs to the fictional world as we are ever growing, ever learning and changing. This process simply continues as we continue to evolve.
I am sharing this as I wish I had seen this roadmap earlier on in my journey, particularly Acts Two and Four - doubt, reluctance and regression.
To that I would add facing all my fears, fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of letting go, fear of disappointing others, self-doubt, reluctance, frustration, the loss of old identities, old self-beliefs, old habits. To name a few.
And it’s not that I have faced these once and left them behind. I face these sides of myself daily (thankfully not all at once!) and chip away at their many layers.
Each day that I manage to chip away another layer I grow stronger and more determined to continue on my path. The path becomes clearer and things that were once difficult become second nature. Life opens up in so many new and fulfilling dimensions that I wonder why I resisted. It seems that before any major breakthrough the resistance is the strongest. I encourage you to push on through that resistance as there is fulfilment and joy on the other side.
When I started out on this path I had reached the point where I realised that when it comes down to it, if you only have one life to live, there really is only one way forward - to pursue your true path whole-heartedly. There is no second chance in this lifetime and there is no moment like the present to take action, to take the steps in the right direction.
However stepping in the right direction is what can be the most difficult, especially in the beginning when the layers of doubt, reluctance, regression and fear have built up like plaque on a festering tooth. How do you clean that tooth? How do you overcome doubt, reluctance, regression, fear … every day?
Continue to tune into yourself. Keep tuning in even when your mind is resisting. Tune in every single day.
Find the avenues which work for you to help you go beyond the mental chatter of doubt, reluctance, fear [insert here all other self-limiting thoughts and feelings] and allow your true nature to shine through.
Yoga, meditation, mantras and chanting are some of the oldest, tried and tested techniques to do this. These are what work for me and I am happy to share with you everything I know and have experienced on this path to help you on your journey.
I encourage you to find and listen to your inner guidance and grow through the harder Acts of life. On the other side is the unfolding joy of truly following your unique journey and being able to share your magic elixir with the world.
Lots of love,